A couple of people have recently referred to me as a "natural mother." I was confused by what that meant until I asked Pearl about it (who agreed with that assessment by the way). She said it has something to do with how calm and unworried I am about the process of raising a kid. Also, because I have fully formed opinions about most things.
I really have two things to say about that.
1) I am in no way calm. I'm at the end of my rope way too often, but that's the sort of thing you don't tend to see in other people because I think it's always harder when you are alone. I have yelled at the baby for not settling down and going to sleep (stupid and counterproductive!); I have tossed Moira at Walker the minute he came home, leaving her crying in his arms while I hid in the bedroom. Also I make stupid mistakes, like leaving our biggest kitchen knife lying on the counter in arms reach. Fortunately, she didn't hurt herself.
2) Whatever parenting calm and experience I have is, in no way, natural. Maybe I did have a slight edge, since I was one of those baby crazed teenagers. Which lead to the real reason for my skills. 12 years of constant babysitting and then nannying. Lori asked how many families I worked for, and I can't totally recall. The answer is around 7 or 8 who were repeat clients, or permanent positions. Then there was the volunteer daycare I ran for a sci fi convention for 10 years. And the other conventions where I worked with someone else who ran the daycare. All that child wrangling left me with the sure and certain knowledge that kids are actually pretty tough and easy to please. The only important thing in the long run seems to be that they are loved and respected.
I also had the benefit of seeing a wide variety of parenting styles. There were two mothers who I especially admired, whose kids seemed happy and fulfilled, whose kids still seem that way 10 years later. Pam and Susan, thank you for being such great role models.
There were also plenty of examples of ways not to treat kids. There was the couple who never said 'no' to their kids. They didn't really explain anything though, or give them any real choices instead. They just didn't use any negative language. Those kids were very confused, and very angry.
There was also a couple who belittled their daughter. Not, I think, on purpose, but in small ways, that made her physically shrink inside herself, whenever I witnessed it. She and I did a lot of art projects and there was a picture she was very proud of one day. We hung it on her wall, and when her parents got back, she proudly showed it to them and told them all about it. "You can't draw." her Dad said, "that's just a bunch of scribbles."
But, I also know the secret truth, which is that most of those little hurts? Are recoverable. Your kids love you and need to be loved. They will do what it takes to male you happy. And as adults, we all have secret hurts and fears from random childhood incidents. You can never tell what will be the thing that your kid has a hard time getting over, but we all, more or less, manage to get on with the living. If I could do one thing in my life it would be to worry less and laugh more.
So that's what I'm doing, one day at a time. And my guess is that most of the other mothers I know are doing that too.