You Can't Always Get What You Want, Thankfully
Maybe people who establish a family in the traditional order – marriage, house, kids – are used to compromising by the time their babies become toddlers. They’ve already met halfway on venues, neighborhoods, and names. I have no way of knowing for sure because my path was anything but ordinary. As a single mom using a sperm donor, I had the responsibility of making every choice on my own. It’s at times stressful and other instances amazing, but all in all, I’ve become accustomed to being in charge. And of course, as is the case with many parts of parenthood, just as you get used to something, things change.
These days, my term as boss is dwindling, making way for a new normal because my daughter has her own opinions. Like the other day when I tried taking her out in the snow and she wasn’t having it.
“Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want,” I said, “like going sledding.”
My brother was the wrestler in the family, but I was putting up a good fight with Autumn who, in all fairness, was well below my weight class. “No” wasn’t an option that day. I desperately needed a remedy for my cabin fever. I also wanted reassurance that last year, when she was eight months old and hating snow, was just a fluke because for sure any child of mine would love the outdoors.
Unless maybe she doesn’t.
When I went through IVF, I pictured myself as a boy mom. I had male names chosen since elementary school and I had always preferred baseball to Barbies. And these days, science makes it easy for dreams to come true. Since I had several embryos of both sexes, I got to decide.
“Are you doing gender selection?” the embryologist had asked.
“Use the one that looks healthiest,” I said considering priorities, but also thinking, “and please let the healthiest be a boy.”
Then at my reveal party, I cut into a very pink cake. My mom giggled, predicting a strong-willed mini me, while everyone else was convinced she’d be super girly. If everything in life worked out evenly, I would’ve definitely gotten a smart-mouthed brat. But people don’t always get what they deserve, thank goodness, and the birth of Autumn was one of those times. She gives before taking, and always includes everyone. She laughs easily, dances wildly, and loves strongly. And, as it turns out, her dislike of outdoor winter activities wasn’t because she was eight months, it was because she is Autumn – at least Autumn so far. But sometimes, you think you want one thing until you get something else, and then you can’t imagine anything different.
We rode down the hill twice before heading home, and while she sat in her high chair munching marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate, I played the Rolling Stones.
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”
Autumn shimmied around delighted while I belted out the lyrics, and never did they ring more true. Maybe she was exactly the right one.
That afternoon, we took a nap. We usually lay in bed for the first ten minutes, and then I transfer her to her crib. On this day, instead of me just cuddling her, she took her arm and draped it across the back of my neck, the way two players might walk off a field after a good game. It occurred to me then that I’m now a unit, a we instead of me, and with being a unit comes compromise, but also security and companionship. And mostly it made me think of how a phrase my mom uses with her kids now applies to my feelings about Autumn:
“If I didn’t have you for my daughter, I’d want you for my friend.” Regardless of her disdain for sledding.