For better or for worse, I am the kind of mother that imagines what my children may remember of me. Like when they’re older and the mother I am now becomes the mother I was then. I try not to resent myself for not being present; but I also, strangely, seek solace in knowing the mistakes I made when they were much younger will be diluted by the ones that I make now, by time, and soon enough, these days too will dissolve into a hormonal teenage haze.
But what’s there to say of the good things? The wild things? The way I queue up the music, buy them strange knick knacks, have wild dance parties, or take day trips for the hell of it? For all the things I do wrong, I imagine them recalling the things I got right.
In Crying in H Mart, author Michelle Zauner reflects of her mother’s life and the ways she showed love:
“I remember these things clearly because that was how my mother loved you, not through white lies and constant verbal affirmation, but in subtle observations of what brought you joy, pocketed away to make you feel comforted and cared for without even realizing it. She remembered if you liked your stews with extra broth, if you were sensitive to spice, if you hated tomatoes, if you didn’t eat seafood, if you had a large appetite.”
I know that River hates the flavor of almost every shape of noodle other than spaghetti. She can write an essay like a high schooler, but struggles (like her mama) with spelling. When doing almost anything with her hands, her toes twist in the same shape, and I always find it funny. Oak wakes every single morning with the same sound and likes his food untouched and calls me Mamá like some French man. When he dances, he does this two-hip-twitch with such confidence that I play music almost every night just to watch him do it. They both know when I’m not paying attention, and they both appreciate it when I am. But I suppose, the way I show them love the most —the way I hope stands out in their memories—is the way we cuddle and talk about them every single night.
I am not slow to put them to bed; nothing could come faster. I am tired by dinner, and most nights wonder how I do it alone. In the morning when they wake, I can’t wait to hug them, and I also could use more time alone. In between that exhaustion and the starting over, though, is where our love language lives and thrives. The times when their bodies are tucked into mine, their curls tickle my face, and we whisper whole conversations about feelings, body parts, school issues, world conundrums, future dreams, and far-off excursions.
I used to believe that my knack for being out with them, for making little plans, for keeping it together would be that “thing.” The way we eat dinner on some park bench, playground hop, and may catch a random music show somewhere we had no business being. I thought it would be the way I navigated them through our city, I do feel so at ease with it all in a way that often baffles friends and family.
But these days, I think it’s something else. It’s not the loud and the busy. I think it’s the quiet, the moments that don’t come as easily, that I make a point of giving them, laying there for close to an hour, hopping between bunks, watching the sky get darker, cuddling and working out life and the world.
I wonder, too, if these meaningful moments, what I hope carries them when they’re older, will also carry me when they’re older., I doubt I’ll remember where we spent our days, but I’m almost certain with every atom in my body, I’ll remember how we spent our nights.
What’s your love language?