Parenting Perspectives: Mother has dual identity
By Roxane B. Salonen, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
It hit me straight-on recently as I prepared to speak at a Young Author Conference in northern Minnesota. Watching me pack, my 5-year-old son asked, “Wheow aow you going again?”
“Somewhere to help children learn how to write books,” I’d explained.
“But why?” he persisted.
I got the feeling he wasn’t talking about the students, but me. What qualified me to do this work? It wasn’t connecting.
At that point, a strange realization took hold. Somehow, in all of the busyness of mothering him – this child who was fashioned in my womb while I was fashioning my books – I’d never told Nick I’m an author.
This same youngster has been following me around the past month grasping a spiral notebook and pen, asking things like, “How do you speow ‘Spidew-Man’?” and “What’s six pwus six equo?”
He’s also the child who pretends to type as quickly as I do while he’s on a plastic, kid-sized “computer,” clicking away at nothingness as if he were writing up the latest article or newspaper column.
Just a month prior to his birth, on St. Patrick’s Day 2005, a box of advance copies of “P is for Peace Garden: A North Dakota Alphabet” arrived at my doorstep.
I, with my large belly, celebrated with him in utero. This prompted our choosing for him the middle name of Patrick after my great-grandfather, another author, Patrick E. Byrne.
But apparently I’ve taken for granted the fact that my youngest son’s life and my books are inseparable. I knew it but had failed to let him know. While I helped foster his love for books and the people who write them by reading aloud hundreds of stories, I’d never thought to read those that link straight back to him.
Perhaps my failure to fill in the gaps for my son is an omission akin to his own inability to comprehend that my world was well under way by the time he entered it. Our lives in relation to one another are not always fully grasped.
I’m not the only parent leading a dual, even triple, life. There’s the rarely fathomed professional identity, the before-kids persona and, most important to the child, the role of parent.
Despite the sudden jolt, I’m content with the fact that my identity as Nick’s mother is the one I’ve revealed most fully to him, the one most unhidden. It’s the one that has secured his existence and survival and trumps all others.
The other two identities may remain mysterious to him, even if they help fill in the blanks of his life, just as pieces of his life will always be mysterious to me.
[This column originally appeared in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead newspaper on Tuesday, June 1, 2010. Reprinted with permission.]