Saturday, March 26, 2011

Flashbacks Pull Forward

There are moments when I am mothering Wesley that I have vivid flashbacks to my own childhood. As he gets older, they seem to be coming more frequently. They are not average memories, but visceral ones where sensation is vivid, as if being relived.

I pour cupfulls of water over his back in the bath. I can remember anticipating the warm water rolling over my shoulders, how it felt flooding over my back. I remember thinking that my parents were so good at keeping it out of my eyes as I leaned my head back to have my hair rinsed. Warm, soothing relaxation.

I stroke tiny wisps of hair around his ears. I am transported to Illinois, my Mom sitting on the side of my bed, stroking my hair to help me sleep. I feel how softly she brushes it, sometimes back, sometimes behind my ear, it feels like the touch of silk lulling me. I can remember the confusion of awakening after drifting off to sleep, shocked that my Mom is no longer at my side. Is this why Wesley screams when he awakens?

I carry him from the stroller after a jog. I have the vague awareness of my Dad lifting me from the car, sometimes a notion of going up stairs, and the feeling of knowing I was being taken care of.

Will Wesley remember these things? The tiny moments we parents may forget even happened get imprinted in the child's mind. Wesley notices the awnings flapping in the wind, the dog who is nearly out of sight, the string of loose carpet in the corner. He will likely remember parts of our daily routines, but he will also remember the little happenings, unexpected moments.

Did my parents love these moments? Did they feel as if they were showering me with adoration and security as they did it, or was the caring act enough in itself? They probably couldn't imagine the comfort I feel even now as I remember the events.

Being a parent sparks memories of our own childhoods, encourages us to revisit them. More than a simple act of remembering, I am connecting to a physical memory of childhood in a way I had rarely experienced before parenthood. It is as if the moments are imprinted in my body and are accessed through my mothering Wesley. 

These vivid memories connect Wesley to my childhood, to my parents who were nurtured when they were young, and to family members preceding them. Generations who have parented, who have kept their babies warm, who have carried their sleeping ones, who have played the same games and sung the same songs. Generations who in these acts, have imparted knowledge about how to be cared for, and thus, how to become a caretaker.
Is this how I know how to parent? Maybe the knowledge is stored in my body, in my memories, to access when I need it. I pour the cup of water over my baby's shoulder's to keep him warm just as my parents for me and their parents for them. Each act may not flash me back to childhood, but much of what I do may have its origins there.

Perhaps the acts of my parents, along with my own 28 years of growth and individuation, and a bit of biological instinct are what constitutes my motherly intuition. This idea draws me backwards in time. I feel a deepening connection to the generations of mothers who came before me.

Thank you Mom and Dad for the endless hours of love and support you have given me and which you continue to provide. Thank you for the influence you had in the formation of my motherly intuition which I trust so fully, which guides me daily. I love you.

Thank you Grandma for the love and support you showed my Mom as a child and which continue you show us all. My mom's amazing mothering skills and your incredible nurturing abilities are much of the reason I have such confidence in my mothering.

Thank you to Casey's parents for your part in the ease with which Casey fathers so well.

I do not mean to imply I never struggle as a mother, never question what to do or if I am doing the best I can, but rather, I wish to express that there is a quality of knowing how to mother for which I am grateful.


  1. Melissa,

    So beautifully written and said. A whole line of ancestors stand behind you, and you are in a kind of relay. You are passing on something very precious to Wesley, who will move it on...

  2. I love that Melissa. As a non-mother I thank you for that vicarious experience.