I was a sickly child, colds with high fevers. Mami cut garbage bags into shirts to make me sweat it out. She also made circles to put over my back and chest out of big brown paper bags; she rubbed Vicks VaporRub on them like her mami did.
I remembered this as I put blankets on my son after he fell asleep. As I was reading him a book he asked for more medicine. He either has a cold or bad allergies; I had already given him Claratin and Chinese herbs. I then remembered the Vicks VaporRub, a staple in any Caribbean Latino’s home.
There are things that are so different with my kids than how I was raised. We live in a house for one thing. I let my son play by himself in the backyard. I watch him through the window as he sits in his plastic jeep without a battery contemplating life. He waters the garden and comes in to play. I let him get dirty; I brush off his knees when he falls; I dare him to not be scared and he isn’t. We have books and instruments and we spend lots of time in the kitchen cooking and baking. I let him stir and pour ingredients. When he acts out I ask him if he needs a hug. He says, “lo siento” and I forgive him. My kids watch my husband and I kiss. They see love between us sometimes they see us argue-I would like to stop that one.
The things that are the same is the lessons taught in manners and ways to be. I sing them the same lullabies my mami sang to me. We talk to our family, we eat rice and beans. I teach them about Cuba and have started to tell them about my childhood. My mami was the first person to teach me to pray as I have taught my children. It may not be the same prayers or in the same ways but I am building their love of God just like my mami did with me. There are hugs and kisses and I love yous.
When I look into my children’s eyes I see their love for me. That look reminds me that being a mother surpasses any other occupation I’ve ever had. I sometimes don’t feel the same when I clean or do their laundry or change their diapers but when I hear their laughter and play the drums with them I feel content.
I was a lonely child. My mami swept as I told her stories but she didn’t listen to them. When I find myself absorbed in my own thoughts or what I am reading on the internet while my child is talking I stop myself. I know I can’t be perfect but I don’t want them to remember me not being there for them. I want them to know I go through various emotions but I don’t want them to think they have a crazy mother. I want to be stable and loving and someone they could trust and turn to. I want them to think I am beautiful. Maybe I am being vain but I want that. I want to teach them about life and have them understand me. I want to not judge them or hold them back or be resentful of their mistakes and choices. Maybe I could do that. Maybe I could be that type of mother.