Last night I had a meeting at my daughter’s pre-school. We have been having trouble with drop-off for, mmmm, about a year now, so I was talking to her about that. She is the most present, calm, compassionate person I know and I value her opinion greatly. So when she mentioned that “she [my daughter] has a very strong attachment to you[me]”, something tightened inside. I had to stop my eyes from rolling to the back of my head, thinking to my frustrated moments when trying to cook dinner, eat my dinner, clean up the house, or have any space to myself while she is around. “Uppie mama” she says, in the sweetest little girl voice one could have only gotten from angels. But the response is not always so sweet, “Eliana, mama is not available for uppie right now” my strained voice states as I clank the pots on the stove. There is someone that lives inside of me – the one who takes her sweet little hands, and removes them from my sweater, as she stands next to me, trying to crawl up to my heart. My attention turned back to her teacher, who was still talking, and I heard “relish it.” And then my ‘babble’ began. Something triggered inside of me, and it went something like this: “I know…I DO relish it, but we have our moments, hahaha. You know me – I’m kind of independent….I often think about why Eliana and I ended up together – I know we are perfect for one another – but at the same time…..I DO relish it, but, yeah, we have our moments.” She stared back at me with the experience of a woman who has compassionately listened to babbling mothers for years. And I thought to myself, why didn’t Eliana get YOU for a mom?
Years ago, when I was expecting our first, I was given a book that was about different mothering styles and it spoke to the challenge of mothers who have children that are either too similar to or too different from them. Not having children quite yet, much of the book was lost on me. But what struck me the most about this book was one of the mothering “styles”, which the author called “The Aloof Mother”. I had an emotional reaction to the idea that any mother could be aloof to her children. The book used the example of how an Aloof Mother could walk into a room where her child is, and not acknowledge her child, or at least right away, lost in thought about something else. I was horrified by the mere notion. Wellllll, I’ve sort of learned enough about emotionally reactions to know that that was my first warning sign. Enter me: The Aloof Mother. Enter my children: “Demanding and uber-attached”, words only an Aloof Mother would say.
Let’s just say I have a better understanding of the Aloof Mother now. It goes without saying that I love my children more than anything on the planet. I think I got the most special of them all and I am honestly honored (even if often overwhelmed) to be their mother. I am also very trusting of the Universe, so I know that we are absolutely perfect for one another. But sometimes my heart breaks for them because they got me.
When Eliana was a newborn, we waited our prerequisite 3 weeks and then started to introduce the bottle, with pumped milk. Wow- that was some aversion. So we patiently and gently waited and tried again and again. After ~ 6 weeks, I started to panic just a little. I had heard about babies not taking a bottle, but I had always assumed their parents didn’t try hard enough. I bought every kind of bottle known to man-kind. All of my friends understood my panic (even if they didn’t relate to it) and sent me articles, bottles and more method suggestions. I kept wondering how my life was going to go down, not being able to be away from my baby for more than 2 hours at a time. The dark clouds didn’t roll in, but they were waiting for the cue. I stayed optimistic for our 3-month milestone. But the time came, and there was still nothing that Eliana liked less than plastic nipples of any kind – no bottles or pacifiers for her. No way. No how. The entire city of Austin heard her rebuttals. I felt, at the exactly same time, frustration and doom that I was going to be attached to my baby for an entire year and then guilt that I would ever mind. I have a lot of attachment parent friends and I recognized that if Eliana had ended up with one of those mamas, they would not have even NOTICED that she didn’t take a bottle. One entire focus of “suffering” was another person’s source of joy. And that was when I started wishing another mama for her – the kind that doesn’t leave her children for any length of time for YEARS. But alas, that is not me. I tried to become, at least, a little more like that, and in my mind, I was forced to be. I spent a year with Eliana, never away from her for more than 3, maybe 4 hours on a “good” day. But I had a rough go. About 9 months in I started seeing a therapist in order to work on all the aspects of me that were being boiled up in this situation. And out of it all, I became a better person. A better mother. A better Aloof Mother.
It’s not a great title – The Aloof Mother. I used thesaurus.com to help me rename it, but Aloof is actually the nicest term in the list, other than perhaps, “laid-back”, a term that people actually very often use to describe me. I am not sure if I should run from the title and re-name it, or just embrace that I’ve been pegged and accept myself for all that I am. I am, at the end of the day, the best mother that I can be. That I am sure. I spend a good deal of time and energy working on myself – as a person, as a parent. So, where else would I turn to offer some insight into being Aloof? Aloof.com, of course (not kidding). There were lots of great nuggets to extract (with perhaps a little editing) from their, “How to be an Aloof” article, including “your detachment allows you to navigate through life during good times as well as challenging times without becoming outraged or angered”, but I think I can use this one to help me frame The Aloof Mother:
“One important thing to remember when being aloof is to never compromise who you are. That includes your style, culture, speech or anything else that makes you who you are. Treat others as your equal. Remember no one can make you feel inferior unless you give them your consent. By believing in yourself, staying strong, and being aloof, you will grow as an individual.”
As a Buddhist, or just a spiritual being, really, “who I am” can be an interesting question. But my heart knows. I am not “an aloof” or “an aloof mother” or any other title or label, even if I do enjoy playing with these things. If calling me ‘an aloof’ or even ‘Buddhist’ helps me disassociate from some of the chaos and turmoil, then, “yea!” But who I am, most definitely is Me. And honoring that and listening to Her is all I can do. And trusting that, indeed, “I” am enough and all that anyone, including my children, needs. No compromise needed.