Having children changed my life, but it didn't really change me. Not too much, anyway. But I believe failing to learn and grow after experiencing something as monumental as raising kids is a wasted opportunity. So there are a lot of things my kids taught me about myself, because living with them is like living with two very small, uninhibited versions of myself. This can be both delightful and deeply uncomfortable because, omg, am I really like that? (Yes, I am.)
To be honest, this was an aspect of parenting I never saw coming. I figured I would learn a lot about myself based on everything I'd have to learn and and do and attend for my children. I think, on the whole, there is a list of universal lessons all parents learn by simply being parents, like how to survive on little-to-no sleep or how to explain potentially complicated concepts to inquiring toddler minds.
But then there are the more individualized, personal lessons I feel a lot of us learn when we realize we're raising small humans who possess many of our best and worst qualities. For me, being a mom has allowed me to appreciate aspects of myself I hadn't even realized were there; how to better deal with my less pleasant personality quirks; and, in some cases, see myself in a different light.
Clumsiness Is Genetic
I always just assumed my gracelessness and tendency towards (not-too-serious-but-still-generally-embarrassing) accidents was some personal failure. But based on the fact that my kids are absolutely without even the slightest touch of elegance or delicacy and have, I sh*t you not, managed to fall out of chairs from an unmoving, fully-seated position, I'm thinking this can't be a fluke. There has to be a genetic component here and, honestly, I'm comforted. Because who can fight genetics? Not this little blundering duck!
I'm A Little Too Sarcastic
This is a relatively new realization, and the result of my son growing older... and pretty damn savage. For example, the other day I asked him, "What do I have to do to get you to clean up after yourself?" and he replied, "What do I have to do to get you to stop talking about it?"
All I could do was hold back a chuckle and tell him that while his response was disrespectful, it was also genuinely witty and so he got props for a good comeback and a warning to never do it again.
And where does my son come up with this stuff? Me. He absolutely gets it from me.
My Body Is Exactly As It Should Be
Something you should know about my house: nudity is common and casual, at least when it comes to my kids. They're very comfortable in their skin, to say the least, and we don't make a big deal of it. It struck me, as my youngest got older and started walking around naked as a jaybird, that, minus the effect of time and puberty, we have the same body. She's me, just reduced by about 75 percent in Photoshop. I kept this observation to myself (because it's sort of a weird thing to just bring up) until my husband was watching them with me and said, "So that's your butt, you know."
Yes. Yes I know.
And it's funny but also kind of nice to know that despite enormous evil industries telling me I can look a certain way if I just diet and exercise and take assorted garbage supplements or whatever, the fact is I look the way I look because that's just how my body wants to be.
I'm Easily Flustered
I kind of knew this before I had kids, but I really had it driven home watching my son act just like me when he's thrown for a loop. (It's not a good look on either of us, to be honest.) Whether it's a natural tendency or a learned behavior remains to be seen, but either way it was a pretty uncomfortable realization.
(I'm pleased to say that since confronting it I've become more aware of my emotional trajectory and I like to think I've improved.)
I'm Good At Communicating
I know this because they're good at telling me what they want and need and how they feel. I'm especially proud of that last bit, because I have worked hard to try to ensure that my kids have a solid emotional vocabulary (as well as the ability to speak freely with me and their father).
But while they're good at communicating how they feel, they're especially good at communicating that they need snacks, and let me tell you that need is constant and they can be extremely emotive about it.
I'm Terribly Impatient
I'm someone who is used to moving "at a clip," if you will. (Go ahead and blame it on years of living in New York City.) I'm used to moving at a certain pace, and I realize that pace does not leave much patience for the pace of others.
OMG KID HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET OUT OF THE CAR?! UNBUCKLE YOUR SEAT BELT, OPEN THE DOOR AND CLIMB OUT LET'S GOOOOOOO!
Being A Crybaby Is A Thing Of Beauty
I'm very much on the record admitting that I'm a cryer. It's who I am and I accepted it a while ago, but it wasn't until I had my kids that I really embraced it. It took seeing my children, especially my son, get really emotional that I could see from the outside how wonderful a quality that is.
It's truly lovely to feel so big — to feel such tremendous joy or empathy — that you're moved to tears. So I now really like that about myself, thanks to my kids.
I'm Excellent At Improvising
This aspect of me is two sided. On the one side, I think improvisation is something I've developed via my children, because I truly believe that every mom becomes an impromptu engineer over the course of her child's life. Whether it's figuring out a make-shift diaper or how to dry a ballet leotard for a class that starts in 20 minutes, we develop these necessary skills.
On the other side, I've discovered that I'm really good at... let's call it "verbal improvisation." You guys, I lie my face off when I have to and I am not even a little bit sorry. I will spin elaborate stories whole-cloth to make my life easier.
"No we can't go to the toy store. I saw on Facebook that they're closed every day after school for the next few weeks for asbestos removal. Asbestos is a chemical that makes you sick. Yeah, apparently the health commissioner was called in and it's a really big deal, so we have to stay far away for a while, but we can go in a few weeks when it's all clear!"
Apparently I Should Never Sing In A Car
Because my daughter shuts me up immediately and if I don't she screams like I'm murdering her, so I have to assume that this is something very serious.
I'm Not Even A Little Bit Cool & That's OK
Motherhood isn't always cool in and of itself, but the best confirmation of my dorkiness I ever received was both my children giving me very harsh side-eye. But it's OK, they love me anyway.