Maternal Myopia

My children are not perfect. I can say this because I have been a mother for almost seven years, and so have had ample time in which get used to the idea. But my god, how it hurt at first.

Most first-time parents believe that their baby is the most beautiful, the smartest, the most wonderful baby in human history. I know I certainly did. And we all know that everybody thinks that, and that everybody cannot possibly be right, but we’re still sure that we are.

Both sides are true: every child is absolutely perfect, and no child is absolutely perfect. The hardest part of sending my son to preschool when he was three was being forced to view him through other people’s eyes. And other people saw him, quite naturally, as flawed.

My son is now in first grade, and the parent-teacher conference my husband and I went to last week was not so bad. It gets easier as time goes on—I no longer cry in my car after these meetings. In fact, N’s teachers have many good things to say about him.

My daughter, a toddler, is still all mine, though my eyes are a bit clearer this time around. The tragedy—and salvation—of the second child is that her parents know she’s not perfect from babyhood. I am experienced enough now to know where she lags developmentally and to recognize her pigeon-toed, slightly lopsided gait.

I haven’t yet given R over to the system. Unlike her brother, she is not yet bound by institutional rules (however reasonable they are), and she is not one of many. There are days when I drive, exhausted, frazzled, and unwashed, past the daycare center at my husband’s place of work, and think “if only, if only.” And then I keep going.

–Claire Isaacs