At some point growing up, I must have asked my mom what it was like to have a baby because I have a vivid memory of her saying, "It feels like shards of broken glass moving through you." This memory lay dormant, of course, until I was just pregnant enough to realize that the rapidly growing human in my body was going to have to come out at some point. Funny enough, when I called my mom all freaked out about the broken glass bit, she had no idea what I was talking about. All she could tell me was how childbirth was no big deal and I had nothing at all to worry about.
"If I could choose," she said. "I would give birth over going to the dentist any day. It's just not that hard."
"Not that hard?! Mom. Seriously? I'm pretty sure it's hard."
"Nah. I had you and your sister both naturally and it wasn't bad at all. I got you out fast - maybe 2 hours from start to finish? I had to - I couldn't go much longer than that without a cigarette!"
After experiencing childbirth for myself and realizing my mom was totally crazy and out of her mind (no big deal my ass), I chalked up her easy deliveries to the fact that my sister and I were obviously low birth weight babies (we weren't) because of all the smoking she did when she was pregnant. It was the only thing that made me feel better about myself.
But recently I've found myself thinking that she may have been onto something with her broken glass analogy. Not that that's what having a baby feels like. No. Having a baby feels more like, well, I can't exactly say what it feels like. But I can assure you, it's waaaay worse than going to the dentist.
Having a child, though - being a parent - is kinda sorta like living with a person-sized piece of glass. A highly reflective piece of glass whose main purpose in life seems to be showing you what your not-so-great personality traits and inadequacies look like when acted out by a three year old boy.
Like a mirror with attitude.
The past couple weeks it seems everything challenging about Liam is something unique about one of us. For example, while watching Liam "participate" in a trial gymnastics class, two memories flashed before me: Bill's mom letting him quit karate (and drums and guitar and soccer and...) after he tried hanging himself with the seat belt on the way to the dojo; and me dropping out of gymnastics after the coach teased me for having spaghetti arms and not being able to do a push up (for the record, I still can't do one - probably nothing to do with quitting gymnastics to stay home and watch cartoons as a kid, right?). While the other kids ran around having fun and doing kid things, Liam passed out on the mat like a limp noodle (spaghetti noodle?) whining, "I don't like gymnastics. Can we go home now?" He was easily distracted, lazy, and did NOT like being told what to do.
I have no idea where he gets it.
Then today at the neighborhood bookstore Liam had a full on melt down because I stepped out of the gated children's area. I was fully visible not five feet from where he was playing but he acted like I had thrown him into a pit of hungry wolves and taken off running. I was totally shocked, a little embarrassed and spent a good chunk of the day feeling irritated and then guilty. When I told Bill about it, he kind of laughed and said, "That's exactly how I was!"
As Bill made dinner and we had the Do we focus on his strengths or try to improve his weaknesses? conversation for the umpteenth time, Liam came into the kitchen to sing us his favorite Smiths song (appropriately titled Half a Person).
(Bill introduced it to him when he was feeling shy about going to the YMCA with me. How much do you love a three year old singing Call me morbid, call me pale...?)
Afterward, Bill turned on some more Smiths and said, "You shouldn't worry about him being clingy, that's just how he is. Morrissey and I were shy and loved our Mamas a little too much, too and we turned out okay. Liam's a great kid. He'll be just fine."
I took a good look at my husband and realized how lucky I would be if my son turned out like him. Nope, nothing wrong with those genes at all.
And if he turns out like me? Well, I guess that won't be the end of the world either.