Postcard from Vermont: Regressions

"Ma ma" Zoe says, less like a word and more like two soft exhales. "Ma ma, I don't need to go potty, ma ma." She sounds a year younger and far away. I'm trying to remember when she started calling me Mama instead of Mommy. It seems like it's been just a few months, suspiciously close to Eliza's age.

It seems like the same amount of time that we've been wrestling with the potty.

"You know the rules, darlin'," I sigh. "We always try before nap. It's been 5 hours since you last peed. Just sit and try. Otherwise, we've got to do a pull-up."

"Okay, ma ma. Ma ma?"

She hikes herself up on the potty.

"Yes, Zoe."

"Will you tell me a story about when you were little?"

I stare at the whale I carved in 7th grade wood shop that hangs over the toilet and think of all the memories from this house that I've come to every summer since I was born. I tell her a story about how my brother and cousins and friends and I used to spend whole weeks in the attic here, coming up with dramatic plays amidst the musty discarded luggage and my grandmother's damp skirted bathing suits hanging on the clothesline.

She lifts one hand off her perch on the potty to wipe hair from her eyes and asks, "Ma ma? Can you tell me another one, please?"

I smile at her in spite of her stalling and retell more of my hazy childhood memories for her entertainment.


I am standing in the hallway outside Zoe's room as she cries behind the door that she can't sleep, the nightlight is too dark, she needs one more song. My hands are clasped behind my head, elbows closed around my ears, one part stretch, two parts defeated exhaustion.

My mom comes up beside me and puts one arm around my shoulders. I tense and will Zoe to magically stop crying, to prove to my parents who have witnessed the whole bedtime ordeal that I know what I'm doing.

"You are a great mom to those two girls," she says gently.

I want to deny it, shrug it off, beg her to say it again.

"It doesn't always feel that way, Mom."

"I know. But you are."

And I let her hug me, bending my knees just enough to let my head rest on her chest.


Marie Green said...

Even mothers need mothering! So glad you have your parents to lean on during this (INCREDIBLY) stressful time.

Marin does baby things alot too, when a few months ago she wasn't. 2 & 3 year olds are such in between creatures... not big, not little. Sorta like the early childhood version of middle schoolers. ;)

bessieviola said...

This made me tear up. You ARE a great mom, even when you don't feel it. Hang in there.

artemisia said...

This is very sweet. You have a good mom. You are a good mom. What a wonderful, wonderful thing to hand down.

grammalouie said...

Tears are rolling down my cheeks. I really mean it when I say what a great mother you are. You have my deepest respect and love.

Hillary said...

Oh! two wonderful mommas.

miyoko said...

hahah i've been hearing "Ma Ma" lately too. ;) part of it makes me wonder what other regressions are afoot and part of me eats it up because i ADORE hearing Phoebe call me "Ma ma" i've recorded it because I will always cherish those two syllables coming out of P's mouth. I think in P's case, she just needs to be reassured that I still adore her as much as ever.

So sweet of your mom to say to you. Your hug to her was like you saying "Ma Ma" to her. A nice dose of motherly reassurance from your mom. :D

Grateful Twin Mom said...

Mothering is hard, so being mothered while you're mothering is so comforting. My twins still call me Mama, especially when they're tired, vulnerable, or sad. I'll be sad when they stop calling me Mama.

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