Dear Evan and Lulu,
I remember the exact moment when I found out that my mom and dad used to be people before they were parents. I was sitting on the cold cement of our laundry room looking through dusty photo albums of what appeared to be lookalikes for my parents. There were the same familiar faces I saw everyday. The eyes that watched me get dressed each morning. The cheeks who greeted me after school each afternoon. The mouths who yelled when I didn’t come home for dinner on time. The arms who tucked me in every single night and mechanically appeared early the next morning to pull the covers off on a new day. But these familiar faces were standing with other people. Rollerskating or playing cards. Laughing and holding a beer can in the woods. Sporting some criminal hair styles. Who were these parent impersonators? Why weren’t my parents smiling that big and holding beer cans when we went camping each summer? Why weren’t they rollerskating us to bed each night? I didn’t have to ask why they didn’t have those hair styles anymore.
When I had the two of you I wanted you to know who I was before I had you. Not because I dislike who I am to you now, but because I felt a proudness of my identity that I wanted you to see. It was important for me that you knew me as a person, not just me as a parent. So when Evan asks me if I was ever a child and Lulu asks me if I knew your dad before she was born, I realize I can add this to the list of parenting aspirations I failed at.
I failed at you knowing the pre-mom me because there simply is no pre-mom me left. There is no spontaneous road trips, there is no sleeping all Saturday, there is no ice cream to myself and most days there is not an ounce of quiet time that isn’t filled with a running list of things to do. Now you creep into things that have nothing to do with you. I write stories and they end up being for you. I travel and I think of how much you would like to see these shiny, new places. I laugh at something silly and I wish you were there to laugh too.
So some day you will be sitting on your own laundry room floor, or maybe you’ll even be reading this letter, and you’ll realize that I used to be a person before I was a parent. Take a few deep breaths and let me fill you in.
The only thing you really need to know about the pre-mom me is that I was a complete person before I had you. There was nothing broken about me. There was nothing missing, no empty space in my heart, no void in my life. I had an amazing family. I had true and dedicated friends. I had passions and dreams, hopes and aspirations, none of which centered around children. I also had my share of hilarious hairdos.
I think it is unusual for a parent to say they didn’t need their children but that is the reality of parenting. We are people before we become parents, and we all did just fine before you came along. But the beautiful thing about being “whole” without children is that if you choose to have kids in your life, whether through birth, choice, or profession, then you become even more than whole. You become full.
Sometimes the full is hard. There you are in all your personhood glory, living your independent and awesome life. Then suddenly you have this new person to take care of and it conflicts with so much that was happening in your day-to-day. And the new person doesn’t do any of the rollerskating fun stuff but lots of the messy disaster stuff. The fullness of schedules, commitments and responsibility feels like too much. However fullness is not something you can get rid of. You can’t un-eat the last 3/4s of the ice cream container. You can’t un-have children and you can’t be any less full than you really are.
But sometimes the fullness works in the opposite way. Tonight when I stretched out next to each of you before bedtime and listened to every detail of your day that you could remember (characteristically that was what you ate for lunch and what you did in P.E.) and I stroked your rose petal cheeks, I felt so full I could burst. Full of love. Full of life. Full of hope, and happiness and dreams of years to come. That full.
Being a parent doesn’t necessarily change who you are. I hope there is still a glimpse of the old me, even if she is in baggy sweat pants and hard soled slippers. Parenting just changes your capacity. The amount you can juggle. The amount you can let go of. The amount you can love.
I’m full because of you. So full, that I sometimes forget to share the things that make me Megan and focus on the things that make me Mom. I hope this explanation is enough that you’ll forgive me for the long list of horrible hairstyles you’ll have to sort through.