In the spirit of considering identity, I want to talk about losing oneself in the role of motherhood.
I woke the other morning from a dream about getting a tattoo. I like tattoos, so that’s not weird, but the art itself was: a huge, brightly colored Hawaiian floral pattern covering my left thigh to the knee, lots of fuschia and green and orange, and then…Pluto. As in, Mickey Mouse’s dog Pluto.
It was very well done, I might add. In my dream, I was pointing it out to Jax, who was squealing with happiness and hugging my leg.
But it’s probably time to stop watching so much Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, right? And maybe time to put away that Very Hungry Caterpillar book, too…
For the most part, Jax and I like the same things. The shortlist of our great loves is: water, walks, fruit, and books. Things I love that he doesn’t love: quiet time, alone time, car rides without the Cars movie blasting on the portable DVD player, and kale. Things he loves that I don’t love: peeing in the tub, pulling half-chewed food out of his mouth to examine/smash/throw, and suckering people into letting him have a sip of soda. On most other things that aren’t him outright defying me, we get along quite well. Except…
I have all his favorite books memorized, but I can’t remember where my phone is half the time.
I get regular ear worms from the theme songs for the few TV shows he does watch (Mickey, mostly, and because it’s on right when he wakes from his nap and is having snack, Bubble Guppies. If you’re humming either now, you feel me.).
In our 100th read of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I saw myself in that bug. Ravenous, always wanting more. Prone to gluttony. Hopefully nearing some spectacular transformation.
So hang on, you have kids and suddenly your critical thinking skills, which you’ve spent untold amounts of loaned money to hone, are being flexed on the characters in beloved children’s board books? Or is that just me?
There is no remedy for this. You’re still singing the Bubble Guppies theme song to yourself, aren’t you? Me too. I have no wise words about how to establish boundaries so you don’t feel like your kid’s interests and activities are completely overtaking your identity. They are. I have no platitudes about how it can be different if you read this book or do this yoga pose or whatever. It can’t.
Know what I learned recently about caterpillars? When they’re in that cocoon, they aren’t just growing pretty wings. They are completely dissolving into caterpillar ooze, from which a butterfly grows. (<– actual scientific explanation) When that butterfly comes out, it is not the same being it was when it went in. A butterfly is not called an “adult caterpillar.” A caterpillar is not a “baby butterfly.”
You can cocoon your pre-parent identity all you want, but what I think happens when we have kids is that we become ooze. And we get wings. Awww.