Published on May 23rd, 2018 | by Ryane Granados2
I was a much better mom before I had kids. My parenting vision was a menagerie of constructed pieces embroidered by sitcoms and an industrious single mother. By the time I graduated college I had names picked out for all five of my fictional children. Being the oldest with an eight-year age gap between my younger sister and myself, I always fantasized of a large family, guided by two well-traveled parents who would gift their kids with passports on their first birthdays because the world would be their preschool. Instead, I got my first passport following the end of my first marriage.
I had no kids from that union, but the dissolution still felt like a break from regularly scheduled programming. I pieced together a patchwork of my fragile heart, and encountered the next person who said the right thing at the right time—threaded a needle, almost tied another knot and before I knew it, an unplanned-but-welcomed baby was born. My relationship with my soon to be son’s father was hyperbolic at best and volatile at it’s worst. As a result, it became increasingly apparent I would have to embark on this new journey alone. This was a much different conception story than the one I had conjured up in college and while I had feigned admiration for blended families it all seemed like more ineffective patch working; ex-wives and new wives and whole brothers and half-sisters; it was a cross-stitching of relationships that I could do without. Again I was a much better mom before I had children, so my fantasy of how things should be could not compete with the size of the baby growing inside me. During his breached delivery, it became apparent that even the kid was concerned I might be an imposter. He kept flipping himself feet first as if blocking his downward descent. I had fashioned my idea of motherhood from made for TV movies and now I was tasked with raising a son, on my own, despite my poorly proven track record with the opposite sex.
The first time my infant son peed in my face I worried my man troubles were far from over. Then when I met the man who has become my second husband and he expressed he was a single dad raising two sons that he had while barely out of childhood himself, and that one of those son’s had just had his own son, all I could see was a house full of penises. But I fell hard and I fell fast and to my dream come true I was gifted a life with everything I ever wanted while bearing resemblance to everything I imagined I could never handle.
The patches of my family quilt were finally coming together, but they weren’t Pinterest pre-cut perfect squares. They were handmade, hard fought seams and closures from old hurts and new beginnings. We had a blended family, an interracial marriage, and eventually, we conceived, of course, another son. Together we became better parents, been there done that parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, dizzy with exhaustion, and love, and tears and laughter parents. At 39, I now have even more children than the five kids I originally imagined, but their age gaps leave me wondering whether to throw a book at one, a diaper at another or a condom at the other. My parenting tapestry has gifted me sons walking through every phase of boyhood into manhood. For this reason, I’ve had to brew confidence in my maternal abilities as fast as I brew my morning coffee. I’ve had to become as decisive and erect as a baby penis peeing in your face. I’ve had to disregard an image of motherhood marred by margins that don’t include mothers who look like me.
I am a black mom who worries about her black and brown sons racing through their growth charts, appearing older than their high-pitched voices reveal. They are growing up in a world where their gangly, giggly, sun kissed bodies pose an imaginary threat to grown-ups who choose to see my boys as men. I play tug of war with them. Can they go outside adorning their favorite black hoodie or can they not? Should I explain to them the beautiful duality of their darkness? That it is both coveted and condemned? Or should I just let them play, roam free, let them be?
I am a step-mom who abhors the term as it reminds of folklores and fairytales and evil stepmothers depicted with disdain. I like to view myself as Mom to the power of 2, meaning I have shown up in my older sons’ lives to simply add a little more. A little more love, a little more guidance, a little more late night talks, a little more early morning prayers. I am eternally grateful for their mother’s gift of life and for the way that gift has multiplied in the branches of my own curved and winding family tree.
I am an anxious mom who has to constantly be reminded to breathe. I use church, and meditation and kava and vitamin B mixed with talk therapy and tai chi and an evolving understanding of the psychological damage incurred by comparing my idea of motherhood to someone else’s idea of motherhood including the twenty-something idea of motherhood I had in undergrad. Now, when people ask me how many kids I have, I say I have four sons and two grandsons. It’s brought about an uncanny since of joy and pleasantry. I watch as their raised eyebrows try to figure it all out, as my very distinctly Mexican American, 24-year-old son, calls from across the store: “Mom!” It’s illuminating how this one word has such a grounding quality, as if I were indeed made for this. My patchwork of a past all leading me to this moment, “Yes son! Here I come!”
I am a boy mom who wants nothing more than to raise boys into men who respect themselves and their female counterparts. I am on constant Mommy Misogyny Alert checking stereotypes as regularly as I check homework, whispering to the preschool girls, “It’s really sweet that you ladies are lining up to put my son’s shoes on for him, but he knows how to do that himself. Don’t let his cute smile fool you.” Likewise, the fight against toxic masculinity has me missing the days when my school-age son’s favorite color was hot pink. Anyone who can see that color, and think it designated to one gender over another, is missing out on a feeling of hot pink happiness as emotive as life in the 80’s.
And most accurately I am an artist mom. I walk a tight rope between two worlds. In one realm I can be found relishing the chaos of a child-filled home, embracing the noise, excitedly lining the kids up at the post office to get their passport photos taken. In another instance, I am craving the solitude of an introverted writer where the only stimulus needed comes from my imagination and the motor planning required to turn streams of consciousness into scene and story. A romantic gesture is my husband planning a “boys only” day out. For the four-year-old I pretend to be disappointed at my exclusion, but the older kids know this is code for “Mommy in writing mode.” I can only hope this teaches them all I was put on this earth to labor and deliver as well as nurture other things besides their existence. I have dreams and I am a better quality mother when I am pursing those dreams; when I am blanketing myself in my own custodial care.
Depending on who I am talking to or the funhouse mirror I am looking through I am a young mom, an old mom, and a nana too. I finally did get a daughter, in the form of a daughter-in-law and I urge her to color and design well outside the stringent lines of society’s manufactured motherhood. “We are all figuring it out as we go,” I tell her while also reminding myself. Motherhood is improvisational acting on a world stage and it is simultaneously heart wrenching and heart mending. I know a lot about being a mother and I know nothing about being a mother. The only thing I am certain of is I will never hold up to the mother I was before I had children. I am a patchwork of stiches with unfinished raw edges. I am a tapestry of sewn together soul and survival. I am as multi-layered as the jerk chicken and grilled pineapple pico tamales made for Sunday dinner. And when we eat, our dining table never adorns a cloth. Turns out our family, in all of its assorted brilliance, is the only protective cover we need.