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Stories

Stories, observations, and reflections from a life of raising boys

The Naked Truth About Motherhood

Jenifer DeMattia

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When I was maybe fifteen I went to a water park, climbed the never-ending stairs in a ridiculously long line, and finally sat in the rushing water waiting for the annoyed worker to tell me it was clear to go. I looked into the darkness of the tube, and could hear the plummeting force of the water. I lay down and folded my arms across my chest like an x as I was instructed, scooted myself closer and closer and went for it. Twenty terrifying seconds of feeling like I was in a washing machine, banging my head on the bolts that held the damn thing together and thinking perhaps I should have chosen the lazy river instead of the water slide, and I came out at the bottom very disheveled and mostly naked. Somehow in the shuffle I had lost my swimsuit. But at least my bottoms were still hanging on my ankle for dear life. Everyone was staring at me and it was traumatizing at the time.

This is the closest thing I can think of today that describes my descent into motherhood.

It’s like feeling the most amazing butterflies you’ve ever had in the anticipation of that rush of joy. Deciding to ride life’s most terrifying ride. Entering with one expectation and coming out completely different. Naked, and stripped down for the world to see.

But isn’t it amazing how one experience can change us? Everything that goes right and wrong in our lives shapes the next course of action we take. And what’s particularly funny to me is how having children changes us. How once we make the plunge into parenting we begin by drowning and then learn to swim all over again, just in a very different way. Even though I still get anxious at the thought of getting on a water slide, I realize now that experience was a piece of cake. My children have shown me that those kinds of experiences are the best kind. The ones that make you see the humor of our existence. Raising a child, now that’s a real ride for your ego.

I now go grocery shopping with a little person who dresses head to toe as The Flash and stays in character the entire time.

He told the clerk at the shoe store I was “Horny”. I just looked at the guy and smiled as though my son had just said any normal old thing. I knew he was referring to the name he had given me based on the toy car I was playing with earlier that day. The one with the horns. Makes perfect sense.

If you had ever told me I’d wipe another human’s boogers with my hand I would not have believed you. I even kiss them after they lick the snot off their upper lip to clear the way. And the thought of it doesn’t really gross me out like it should.

I have already sat through what I consider to be hundreds of tantrums about the most ridiculous things. Washing their hands, food touching on the plate, my improper pronunciation of the angry bird language, and some other meltdowns that I never in fact figure out the origin of. It’s hard to suppress all that passion.

I spend hours researching how my son can deal with his behavior issues only to figure out that I’m the one who has to do all the work. Darn.

I haven’t really slept for 5 years. But when I do, it sometimes happens in a car bed, my son’s floor, or in my bed with their sweaty feet kicking me in my face. I have debated actually climbing inside the crib after falling asleep standing up so many times. Ok, I really did sleep in the crib once. Three times.

I have made countless plans and had to change them in an instant because I got puked on.

I have puked while breastfeeding, while my older son puked on the floor, during the unforgettable stomach bug on Christmas Eve.

I have had conversations with other adults while milk leaked out of my breast and soaked my shirt. I just laughed with a “whoopsie” and walked away red-faced.

I have analyzed every Disney movie from watching them so many times. I still don’t understand why the prince needed a shoe to remember what Cinderella’s face looked like. I tried to turn this into a conversation about love, but my son didn’t really want to talk about that.

Anyway…

If you had asked me when I was young that one day I would have memorized the name and function of each train on the Island of Sodor I wouldn’t have a clue what you meant. But I have.

I’ve spent an hour packing for an outing with my children and never left because I was too tired.

I know more about my kid’s bowel movement cycle than I do about world news.

I have been yelled at by another mom, the very person I thought could relate to my struggles, because my son was going up the slide while her son was going down. I’m still not sure which kid was using it inappropriately.

I hang out with a person who farts and tells me that it’s his “Butt’s way of telling me he loves me”.

And I could burst into tears right now if I think about how much I love that person.

I have smelled the inside of a Diaper Genie after forgetting to empty it. And I live to tell about it.

I have missed so many fun things because I have children. But I am having more fun than I can ever remember spending time with them.

I have nursed them through sicknesses and witnessed my son get teased. And yes, I have told a 14-year he is an asshole. Not my proudest moment, and very unlike me, but he was teasing my son. Sometimes my heart thinks before my mind.

But surprisingly I don’t feel that bad about it. It takes a village, just doing my duty.

I have bobbed up and down through waves of sadness and joy as I struggle to steady myself in the ever-changing sea of motherhood.

Isn’t it funny how children can change us? Isn’t it crazy how they end up making us?

We are stripped down completely and forced to face our fears and become better versions of ourselves. Shedding our skin, and leaving it behind.

Our heart gets bigger, our skin gets thicker, and we no longer give a shit if our bathing suit falls down in public, or whatever other level of embarrassment still lingers from our past.   We are more so consumed by making sure our babies are happy, healthy, and by God, asleep before 8.