A story of developing stretch marks when pregnant and later how my kids leave stretch marks on my heart.
I love being the mother of a teenage daughter because it keeps me humble. It doesn’t matter how cool I think I am or how great my achievement is. When I come home, I turn into the stupidest and most vile person in the world. My poor ego doesn’t get a chance to recover its strength.
Several years ago I mentioned to my co-worker Patti who has four children that I have the worst stretch marks in the world. Stretch marks, for those of you who haven’t had the experience of being pregnant, is a form of tearing in the skin that results from rapid growth of the pregnancy belly. Initially the tears can have purple color. Over time the color fades into a lighter and more natural color however they don’t go away after pregnancy. Patti and I were chatting casually in the lunch room of the company we both worked for. She insisted that she instead had the worst stretch marks when pregnant in the world, contradicting my proud assertion. I began to describe my stretch marks, how they cover a large area of my body, how each one is wide and long. Patti waved her hand dismissively and said “That is nothing, you haven’t seen my stretch marks”. Then she began to describe hers as if they were a thick slithering lava spewing out of a volcano that has enveloped her naval area. Our bravado could not be concluded since neither one of us was willing to concede to the other. “ There is only one way to settle this” I said defiantly to Patti. “Let us go to the ladies washroom and bare some skin”. Patti agreed confidently. We both stood in front of the mirror in the ladies washroom of the corporate office. Enthusiastically I pulled up my shirt out of my jeans and lowering my pants below my belly button, exposing bare skin around my belly area, feeling impatient to prove my assertion. I pointed on the left: “Look at this!” I said with pride. “Have you ever seen stretch marks this bad! These stretch marks when pregnant where purple.” I asked rhetorically. She looked at my navel area sympathetically and said “Yes, those stretch marks are impressive”, she paused to allow me to savor a temporary sense of victory, “But wait until you see mine”, she continued. Patti followed suit and exposed her midriff area exposing her stretch marks. Hers were not only large and occupying a plentiful area of her body, hers where still dark purple. While my stretch marks have long faded into a more natural skin tone, somehow hers maintained the original tearing color despite the passing of the years. There were no two ways about it. I had to eat humble pie and concede defeat. “Those are the worse stretch marks I have ever seen” I confessed. From that day forward, I stopped making the assertion that I have the worse stretch marks in the world. However I continue to feel proud of my stretch marks even though they are not the biggest nor the most plentiful in the world. To me they signify a painful passage into a majestic world. I wish I could wear them like medals on the chest of war hero for everybody to see.
This thing with growing children is bewildering. When I first became a mother I had to adjust my life around a needy baby. It was a struggle. Giving up outdoors adventures for a walk in park pushing a stroller; social gatherings for toilet training, intellectual discussions with friends for “Hey! look it is a fire truck, fire truck, yes fire truck, red fire truck, fire truck, fire truck”. The bewildering part is that after I made the adjustment and became comfortable with the sacrifices my kids grew up and started demanding a bit of independence. This new challenge of letting go is even more painful than the initial holding on. On some days they come home, one will go out with friends. The other will sit in her room closing the door to indicate that she wants to be left alone while listening to loud music. The third will be sitting on the couch looking perfectly content reading his book. “What should I be doing with myself?” I find myself thinking. “I guess I need to get a life of my own”.
“I am not a child anymore”, “I can do it myself, I don’t need your help”, “You are too old to understand” get thrown around my house frequently these days. I understand intellectually that this is the normal and healthy phase of gaining independence in preparation for adulthood. Emotionally, however, it’s challenging, even painful. A part of me wants to hold on to my babies and protect them from the world. “Why don’t you trust me mom?” asks me my eldest daughter, when I objected to her walking home alone in the dark. “I trust you” I replied. “ It is other people I don’t trust. I am fairly sure you are not going to attack anybody on your way home in order to steal their wallet, however, I don’t trust other people not to do that”. As if this letting go business wasn’t challenging enough there is also the teenage rebellion to content with. One day, the father of my children sat next to me with a despondent expression on his face and asked me with a sombre tone “Did you know that I am an unloving and uncaring father?”. “You have been talking to Ka’awash (my nick name for my eldest daughter)?” I perked up in response. I jumped up and did a little celebratory dance around him “Yeah! she hates you too. O yeah! O yeah! I am so happy I am not the only evil person in the world”. Poor Za’atarah, he looked so bewildered having had a little taste of what I go through in larger doses everyday. Just to be clear Za’atarah is an extremely loving and caring father in my humble opinion. However this teenage rebellion against authority is gut wrenching. I seem to bear the brunt of it. “I hate explaining technology to old people”, “Mom! you are ruining my life”, “Please don’t embarrass in front of my friends” and my favourite phrases from my eldest “I thought as my mother you were supposed to be supportive and loving, but I suppose you didn’t know that”. Then there are the rolled eyes and long sighs which my daughter uses to great effect to communicate greater sentiments than her words. O, I know, I know all this rebellion is a natural part of growing up. Patience and deep breathing are my only aids these days. “Momster” that is the nick name my daughter gave me it came as a result of me asking her to clean up her plate after she was finished eating.
Kids! …. They leave stretch marks on your body when they are born and later when they grow up, they leave them on your heart.