I got the job back in 2000. Before that, it was connections or good timing or experience that always closed the deal. But for this job, I’m crediting the winning combination of perseverance and a proclivity for gymnastics. Being away from home and in that fresh Brevard mountain air didn’t hurt, either. I’d been at this job search for six months with no luck, so I figured what could it hurt to throw a little creativity and physics at the situation? After twenty-four plus weeks, this baby making project had lost any spontaneity you’d typically associate with such an endeavor. But with an eye on the prize and my husband in the bathroom, I slipped into a headstand, held up by the wall behind the bed’s headboard in this single room North Carolina cottage.
I wanted to pull off this maneuver without an audience because it would appear odd if I were to suddenly break into a headstand after an enjoyable dinner followed by what we’d hoped were well-timed baby efforts. Who does this when they’re relaxed and nearly lulled into a delicious sleep? Shall we go ahead and add in a cartwheel or roundoff for good measure while we’re at it? Bring on the balance beam, too! The wall held me up, and with blood rushing to my head, I hoped gravity would work its magic as I listened for the bathroom door handle to turn at which point the plan was I’d roll back out and slide under the covers, with no one the wiser.
Fast forward forty or so weeks and as it turns out, I did get that job, and a second similar one a few years later (requiring travel to coastal Alabama, but with no headstands this go round). It’s been 23 years now, and even though they never did write me a job description or discuss compensation, I did score a job title, which is a nifty palindrome too. They call me Mom.
I realize there have been scores of moms doing this job for all of time, but my getting to join this esteemed club still feels new and original and particularly tailored to my strengths, yet it’s humbling too, illuminating my many faults the role willingly dredges up. It’s hard to describe, but you can’t say the days aren’t interesting. Every day you get to improvise or run a 10K or both, and you can’t ever predict how it’ll go. And then there are the two sweet humans in your life you helped make and who the hospital let you take home. You try to hold on to their sweetness, especially when things sometimes turn sour, and remind yourself that you’re playing the long game. Other days you lean into it all and feel you are exactly where you belong and marvel at your great luck. You get eighteen years to hold on to them and then you get to let them go, these boys who in a blink have become men. These two are my greatest triumph and treasure.
Never has there been a role with so many others sharing your job description. With no formal training, we are all winging it and failing and succeeding every day–but isn’t that what they call living? This boatload of parental colleagues you’ve met along the way lets you compare notes and share the ride and, along with your children, you learn and laugh together, and roll along through the days unaware of the lifelong friends you’re making.
Time snails along and then races forward, and these children grow taller than you, take the wheel of your car, eat you out of house and home, and then move out of that home. But the story doesn’t end here. The book continues and you become a little less author and a little more reader, and having set the stage for a fascinating plot, you now reap the rewards of settling into the story in a comfy chair with a cup of tea. You are now a reader in your children’s chapters, but still very much the author of your own. With a quieter house and a little more time, you’re in that sweet spot between diapers and Depends, those middle years where the road has opened back up and new choices appear.
You look down at your hands, now marked by wrinkled knuckles, and you see your life so far, and these hands that have been attached to you this whole time, which have moved you along monkey bars, enabled your headstands, and held your babies, they hold it all–all the stories, all the struggles, all the work, and all the wins. And inside you are the little girl, the mother, and the grown woman, each still with places to go.
It’s the eve of my first son’s 23rd birthday, and I am flooded back to that night when labor began and I crossed that threshold into becoming a mother. It would be another year after that when I would write this essay, but today, rereading these memories, I love that they’re still crystal clear. Seems you just wing it when you begin this parenting adventure, and every day as you step up to and into new challenges, you surprise yourself by how much you’re capable of and how far you’ve come. Forgive the cliche, but it really is the best job.
“Your life will never be the same,” everyone warned, urging my husband and me to go out on the town in the remaining weeks, even just see a movie, since this would be our last opportunity for a while. I remember the lady in the drug store who glanced at my full belly, then asked if this was my first. When I said it was, she laughed out loud and declared, “You’ve got a big surprise in store for you!”
Along with the loss of sleep, lack of time and exhausting exhilaration, my son’s birth surprised me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It began to soften my grip on the world I once controlled, and my views on privacy, modesty and relationships changed permanently. I was now officially inducted into this world, connected to everyone and everything in it.
Several hours after my water broke and the birth process began, I suddenly didn’t care who saw me naked, bathed in a pathetic pain, bright lights shining on areas much more accustomed to the dark. Convinced during weeks of yoga training that quiet, focused breathing would ease my labor, I emitted instead dry, throaty vowel sounds like an old lawn mower refusing to start. The labor nurses swaddled me in warm towels so I could weather the storm. And I did.
Once home, the number of calls, cards and casseroles was staggering. Beyond our close circle of people, old friends came out of the woodwork, arms laden with comfort food and sweet little baby things. Some talked of their own children, now grown up and paying off student loans, and told stories of way back when. Some just sat and listened, quietly imagining their own future.
When the visitors tapered off and I’d returned the last dish, a peaceful quiet briefly blew through the house, eventually interrupted by household chores, job responsibilities and of course, baby cries. Days were nights, nights were days, and in between, I did everything I could to avoid walking over that loose floorboard which squeaked underfoot. Funny, it never seemed to wake the cats.
As the weeks passed and I began to get out more, I attracted otherwise disinterested strangers who would smile when they saw the baby, many lingering to admire him. Those particularly bold reached out to touch his soft skin. Most made it clear it was the baby they were interested in, and my attempts at idle conversation were unnecessary and interrupted their private moment with him. I loved their visits just the same.
Back at the office, I’d nurse and type, cradling baby in my left arm and dragging the computer mouse with my right. When it was time to switch sides, I’d return phone calls and nurse some more. Couriers who came by our two-person office seemed confused at first when I didn’t turn around to greet them, but then a baby smacking sound or bobbing head would tip them off. They’d return later in the week, skilled in the new drill, and let my co-worker sign for the package.
Just as groups of dogs and their owners flock to one another in parks, my baby attracted other babies and their parents. My husband and I formed instant bonds with other couples as we compared notes on topics like teething and proper burping techniques, essential information for our baby-centric world. When we would occasionally go out, it was wonderful to see my husband with other new dads cradling their babies and bragging that their child could already grasp a rattle or babble “da da.”
With the new baby came a new fascination with sleep: anywhere, anytime, any amount. On route to work, I fantasized about pulling into the closest motel (alone!) and getting a room for the day with a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, where I could savor consecutive hours of delicious sleep, alone and quiet. I bought special bath gels claiming to soothe the baby so he could easily transition to bedtime. I moved the CD player from my office to his room, hoping repeated lullaby rhythms would carry him to sleep. I spent hours searching the Internet for the perfect bedtime CD–forget my own shopping and U2’s new release.
The changes the baby brought extended to every cupboard and crevice of our home. The calming tones in our living room were interrupted every few feet by a primary-colored baby gadget, a pittance for the luxury of a ten-minute distraction. Three-inch socks clung to the inside of the dryer, turning up loads later in the sleeves of our T-shirts. Our promising china collection now mingled with plastic Teletubbies dinnerware.
When we went out to eat, I easily recognized the waiters who were parents or even aunts and uncles from the other ones. The former, usually smiling, knew to promptly bring a basket of bread and extra napkins in preparation for the impending food fest. The latter, via body language and average-at-best service, assured us he was not impressed with our little angel, whose squawking broke the almighty adult ambience. But full of naïve delight, we were just thankful our baby was so enthusiastic about mealtime.
Now, over a year later with more challenges ahead and fatigue still hanging around, I am oddly energized by it all. Our son has sprouted up eye level with the tabletops and scours our floors for things not intended for his mouth. He’s become skilled at catching and pulling the cats’ tails, and his pale, soft hands are filling up with scratches. And even though it’s almost summer and we still haven’t raked the fall leaves, we did finally get out and see a movie.
It was a pregnancy that barely took I think, now looking back on it. This one bypassed the hallmarks of my first go round—uber-thick tresses, hankerings for gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell’s tomato soup, and the inevitable three scoops, two breasts and a belly, peeking out from the bath water, too swollen to submerge where it’s warm.
We were sailing along through the pregnancy, and then it happened: the slow trickle down my leg. I was not just eight months pregnant, but now an embarrassingly and inconveniently incontinent eight months pregnant. Thankfully it quickly dawned on me that it was my water that had broken and not my bladder, thank God. I was already carrying around diapers for my barely two-year-old and there wasn’t going to be lugging Depends around, too.
I wouldn’t dream of arriving at a dinner party a month early, so why had my baby lost his ownmanners, toyedwith the notion of showing up this early, and gone and done it? We weren’t nearly done with our nesting and besides, I hadn’t yet taken my pregnant belly photo, yet this baby was coming on his terms I realized, another trickle moseying down my leg. He was leading and I was going to follow. Tonight.
I was determined to birth this baby, who I knew would be my last, naturally and I checked out videos from the hospital which coached me on a drug-free labor. I’d be setting off on this inward journey I’d thoroughly prepared for, and soon found myself in the delivery room in bed on all fours staring down at the hospital mosaic floor tile. The sporadic dark tiles interrupted the pale ones, part of the peaceful beach scene I’d conjured, and with each wallop of a labor pain, I blew away these pesky dark tiles, which I’d decided were roaches I could obliterate with each exhale. After I’d gained considerable ground on these pests, I could hear my doctor instructing me to do something, but his voice was muffled and far away, and I struggled to understand. I kept telling him I couldn’t hear him, but I was the reason, I was the noise screaming bloody murder. Somewhat intimidated by steep roller coasters as it is, for this interminable ride, I’d been placed in the first car, and was flying down arms up on an infinite track with no end in sight.
After a long six hours—which I’d later learn is a textbook labor for one’s second delivery—I got to meet this little fella, all five pounds three ounces of him. His eyes were big—beyond saucers, we’re talking platters here—and he looked up at me, the momma bird, and batted sweet butterfly kisses my way. His enormous eyes fixed inside extraordinarily long lashes studied me. I tried my best to answer with my own unremarkable eyes, though was still shivering from the drug-free labor.
He was unique from the get-go. A mere four pounds leaving the hospital, he caused quite the stir in the elevator with women mostly who peeked into his blanket to study his miniature face buried inside a hospital-perfect swaddle. He’d bat those luscious lashes at them, and they’d beam back at me, jealous—or was it relief that this unusually miniature bundle wasn’t accompanying them home?
His ears were not exactly ears yet, but appeared like forming buds I worried could go either way, absorb back into his head or unfurl and evolve into separate flesh and cartilage we all take for granted as ears. Don’t touch the ears, I reminded myself, as I swaddled him loosely; let them blossom into true lobes, God willing.
We soon began our dance of breastfeeding and sleep, cries and burps, diapering and swaddling. His head was no bigger than a squirrel’s, but it was smooth and warm and smelled heavenly, a scent if you could market could earn you a fortune off wistful parents of older children, but needing a fix of early baby days.
Time zoomed by and one day, out of nowhere, we found ourselves by the crib, mattress set at the lowest setting, before our baby, now tall and grabbing the railing, yelling, “New Di! New Di! New Di!” He made quite the ruckus over this “New Di!” thingamajig he insisted on, and even though we felt tired and slow, we ultimately caught on. He was imitating our very own words we said to him each morning, “Do you need a new diaper?” He did indeed and was telling us plain as day, then and there, as he would again and again in the days that followed.
Life went on and he ate more and grew stronger and we slept less and grew exhausted. One morning, we looked up to find our big-eyed boy standing before us in the kitchen, having quietly climbed out of his crib all by himself—a remarkable feat he’d never performed—ready for a new di and breakfast. Like a cat jumping from a high perch without a sound, he could now go places he wished and do it silently too, but for the swishing sound of his diaper while en route.
Forever watching, learning, and absorbing, he did things in his own way and time, like when he first learned to walk. Unlike his older brother, who tried and fell, tried again, and fell again, this baby crawled, pulled up and stayed propped up with furniture, never letting go or falling, until one Easter Sunday when we were at grandma’s house. Out of the blue, he took off, from the living room through the dining room into the kitchen and back again, walking like a pro, simple as pie. That was that. On to the next milestone.
Walking led to running and running led to tricycles, scooters, and then on up to bikes. Starting with training wheels, he wobbled like we all used to, but stuck with it, always declining our offers to take the wheels off until one day he requested the wheels off today please. So off they came and off he went, a bike rider now, pedaling and balancing with ease. He’d done it again: accurately sized up a situation, dove in when he knew he was able, and performed perfectly and without hesitation.
Today, I’m cycling home from his elementary school with him in front taking the lead, as he likes to do, and he’s just barely fitting on the red 21-speed bike he got for Christmas. Not far behind, I’m working my way up the hill and noticing his little spine that’s visible through his shiny blue soccer shirt. Like little pearls strung on a chain, these vertebrae are the very links that hold him together, the same ones I saw in the ultrasound some nine years ago. I pause for a minute, remembering, until he shouts “C’mon, mom! You comin’?”
Note:I wrote this some 14 years ago, and today, Evan’s 21st birthday, it seemed a good time to share these memories.
There are so many little things that are on my mind, things that December has dredged up. I’ve been thinking about people we miss, ones who have passed, and others we only get to see briefly in person, and the energy they leave behind or change in us. We each release an essence, one that lingers with people we meet and share this life with, which can evoke memories and feelings and jolt us backwards and forwards remembering, hoping, and learning. It can light a fire in us, energize us, deplete us, show us our best selves, or leave us wanting more. It can spotlight our loneliness, too, and remind us how much we need people we can relate to, who see us, and who care.
I’ve been thinking about people we miss, ones who have passed, and others we only get to see briefly in person, and the energy they leave behind or change in us.
Like so many I was deeply struck by the loss of Twitch, The Ellen Show’s DJ and dancer, and the tribute Executive Producer Andy Lassner wrote has stayed with me. I only watched the show a dozen or so times, but this lovely man sparkled as he moved his body artfully and effortlessly down the aisle all the while flashing that bright smile. You were always left wanting more of this goodness and light. If he always had it, surely we could muster this magic too? We need each other’s light and joy, especially during those times when we can’t find our own. We need dancers, singers, painters and writers, we need those willing to reveal themselves and show us our own. We need to harness the brightness and fill up on this fuel and lighten all our loads. Here are Andy’s words:
“So many people on social media are posting pictures of themselves with Twitch, talking about their close friendships with him, talking about the texts they exchanged with him just last week. Talking about the conversation they once had with him. The thing is – it’s all true. It’s all real. Those who knew him are not trying to make this tragedy about themselves, they are just trying to convey to you who Twitch was. He made everything about you. He made you feel like the most important person in the world. And he did this for everybody. Not just the people he needed or that were “important”. He did it for everybody. It doesn’t sound real. But it is. All of it. He was everyone’s friend. He really did care for every single person who worked at the show and everyone in his life. And the thing is if you met him just once – you felt that feeling. That light. That’s why I think you and I are hurting. Because we all counted on him. He was our flame. Our joy. Our dancer. There was a heavy burden that none of us realized he was carrying. He must have been so tired. But we didn’t know because he never wanted it to be about him. Ever. So now we can either spend all of our time wondering why and how and never being satisfied with the answers we imagine. Or we can focus on being grateful for the gift he gave us by allowing us to take light from his flame. The thing is that light still burns in us. All of us. Let’s try and share that light with the people we love. It’s really all we can do. And that’s enough. It’s more than enough.”
This last week brought Christmas and with it, like it does every year, expectations and effort, excitement, exhaustion, and emotion. Family came together and then broke off into smaller bits, two leaving on a ski trip and two staying behind, my older son Ben and I the ones staying put. He has work to return to and I particularly enjoy the art of homebodying in the days between Christmas and New Year’s, when that sleepy sweet Christmas dust lingers and the tree seems lighter, relieved to reveal the draped skirt underneath it again, and with everything done, it’s more than okay to just go take a nap. I also had ambitious plans for Ben and me–tennis, bowling, a walk into downtown Decatur for drinks and dinner–but the reality is there’s never enough time nor is a 20-something going to dedicate a huge chunk of it to spend with his mom. I try to remember my own self in my 20s and friends, not mom, were naturally top of the list where they should be. I am learning if you quit trying so hard, the moments come, and if you can just stop and notice, you’re likely in one.
It’s been a good visit with Ben. It left me remembering him, his sweet spirit and our dynamic that I notice best when it’s just us. In my ongoing cleanup attempts, I had set aside some boxes I’d pulled from under his bed, all the stuff you keep from school and sports. He went to work on what turned out to be an interesting exploration of memories, culling the collection down to two boxes, and left a pile to toss. In my closet I found a big box of my mom’s sewing things–colorful spools of thread, her signature strawberry pin cushion, seam rippers and measuring tapes. There was her old coin purse too and inside were the sweetest tags she’d stitched into the many handmade things she sewed. How I miss her infectious enthusiasm, spontaneity, and creativity. Ben got a kick out of all these things, and on this particular visit back home, was fascinated to learn that his paternal great grandmother, too, was a seamstress. Is it nature instead of nurture showing her strengths here?
It was unscripted time, the best kind where you get things done, are on separate floors and don’t need to talk, but return to one another filled up and ready to share. We talked about his sewing projects, items he’s selling and others he’s planning to create. We examined the bag he made me for Christmas which was just as I’d hoped, warm grey upcycled leather, a central zipper, greco tag inside, and a generous pouch for my wallet and cellphone and keys and maybe a lipstick. It looked like a croissant. I love croissant and I love the bag, especially since it’s lovingly handmade by Ben. We talked about New York and my plans to visit in February when a group of ladies I’ve met online are gathering.
Later that afternoon he went out with a friend, and we decided after he got back, we would go bowling, but he called the bowling alley and they had a long wait and another one wasn’t open, so we were disappointed. I was hoping he’d come home, and we’d have dinner together, one of those great moments I’d tried to orchestrate, but the reality was he was in Duluth with friends and having a ball, so I said, “Just be safe and I’ll see you later.” I lit a fire and lit a candle, and I laid down on the couch and went in and out of sleep, listening to a podcast, giving myself permission to have my own wonderful time.
While he was gone, I boiled some more water (we’d been on a boil water advisory in our county) and then went into his room to find a tangled mess of Christmas gift cards and comforters and other post-holiday loot you’d expect. I cleared the bed and made it up, filled a new water bottle with boiled water, and got the room to a reasonable state where if you got in late you wouldn’t have this mess on your hands. I also put a space heater in there because he’d said he was cold the night before. Downstairs, the cats were still sleeping, and I looked up at the tree again, something I’ve done multiple times over the course of this month. It’s been a reliable source of beauty and peace since we got it late November, and only now is it starting to drop a few needles. It’s just lovely. Still.
Ben returned and we were up another few hours talking and getting him packed up. We each set our alarm for 5am and then went to sleep. Barely four hours later but right on schedule there was the alarm, and I hit snooze for those delicious extra few minutes I always steal. I could hear Ben’s go off too (he’s right across the hall from my door), and moments later he was in my room standing at the foot of my bed marveling at the kitties who were sprawled out and sleeping. I slid over and opened the covers and he laid down with me. We cuddled together in the warmth trying to stay really still so the cats wouldn’t move. Ben had on the robe I’d bought for Christmas, a beautiful soft plaid one I picked up at the last minute. I presented it as a gift Santa left for whichever boy in the house wanted it, and Ben quickly claimed it. We talked in the dark for a little longer and then the alarm sounded again, and it was time.
While he packed up his last few items, I went downstairs to toast the biscuits I’d made on Christmas, buttering them and tucking a little honey baked ham in each. I made coffee too. Ben said he’s been drinking Eight O’Clock coffee at home, but he really liked the Pete’s we’ve been having each morning, so I made us a pot of Pete’s, filled some to go mugs, filled our water bottles, and we set out for the airport in the pitch-black dark. I left the tree lights on so we could look at it when we drove past. Ben wanted to drive but he also wanted to eat his biscuits, so we agreed I would. Once at Hartsfield (what we native Atlantans call the airport) I moved into the far-right departures lane, but with such heavy traffic, we had to stop just shy of the canopy. I got out with Ben, gave him a big hug, and he headed inside.
I made my way back home, a tiny, tired motorist under the enormous dark sky, and kept driving toward the sunrise, east on I-20, then exiting and getting on College Avenue continuing east to Church Street past Scottdale and into a little subdivision where the sun peaked out. I watched it for a few minutes, then turned back around toward home to the still sparkling tree and quiet. I laid down on the couch with the cats and drifted in and out of sleep.
In between little bits of sleep I opened up Delta’s flight tracker to find Ben. You really sleep well when you know where they are, your heart walking outside of you. My younger son, Evan, is with Joe–they’re probably going to start the day soon on the slopes–and Ben has just landed, so everyone’s accounted for. I’m still gonna doze ‘cause I’ve gotten up at 5am the last two mornings, one morning to send off the skiers, and this morning to send off Ben.
The couch wasn’t comfortable, and I needed a real bed. Ben’s room is the sunniest of all and the only one with an extra heat source in it now, so I slid into his bed and the cats followed me. The sun was so bright, it was hard to sleep, but I managed to rest before getting a shower. Even though you have to boil the water to drink it, you can shower in it, but just need to keep your mouth shut. Life lessons from boil water advisories: just keep your mouth shut.
Next, I was off to see my former Slovakian tenants who’d invited me for coffee and cookies, Their house is like a bright shiny IKEA catalogue, all their gifts are wrapped with fabric, their floors are bleached, cookies aren’t too sweet but lovingly made from scratch, and the coffee is piping hot. The kids are darling, and I love the warmth in their parents’ bright eyes. Their energy is peaceful and kind, and I brought them some of my homemade granola and eggnog.
The fumes from Christmas are only slightly still in the air, but the fatigue has set in from going going going, and I’m glad I’ve let myself be still. The house is mine for three more days, and I’m going to bask in the silence. I doubt a TV will go on and there’s no one to talk to, no one to feed, just the silence, me, and the tree.
You’d think by now at 57, I could shake it off, those little shreds of shame that still bubble up when I least expect it. We were at a small outdoor gathering and, chatting with a college student, I was doing my damnedest to answer that question you always get meeting new people: “What do you do?” I’ve worked most of my life, and even though I don’t have a job now that pays me money, anyone who knows me knows I always stay busy. Most of what I do is take care of things, of people, of pets. And increasingly most recently, of myself.
Our conversation moved into empty nesting, her mother in the same place, wondering what she’s going to do. We talked of the gaps within our generations, technology a big one. Her smile widened when she told the story of her dad who still types www.google.com on his computer when he wants to search something. I chuckled along with her, though wasn’t fond of poking fun of her dad whom I didn’t know, but for whom I felt compassion. While I don’t type out the word Google to search, I did admit to typing the letter g out of habit to begin a search. She laughed the biggest belly laugh, grinning, because we all should know that Google is the default search engine. Has been for years. You didn’t get the memo? This time I was the butt of the joke and the laughing continued far longer than was comfortable, and I was left to sit, smiling along, exposed, found out, in my imperfect nakedness.
I still go to Utilities and find the Bluetooth icon to turn it off and on. Same with Wifi or anything else I need to engage or disengage. My son keeps reminding me I can swipe up (or is it down?) and just yesterday watching me press the home button to ask Siri, “What’s the hourly forecast?”, he demonstrated how with this newest iPhone software update you can swipe left (or could be right) and find your hourly forecast perfectly displayed. All these saved steps. Where have I been? I’ve struggled feeling and being so behind the times with technology, but somehow I’ve gotten by with my go to limited cadre of tools and shortcuts.
So here we are, another Mother’s Day is upon us, another sunny Sunday where we’ll serve up quiche and cards and mimosas to celebrate these tireless women, some of whom want nothing more on this day than a break. Someone else to do the laundry, weed the garden, respond to bickering children, walk the dog. The commercials and advertisements deceptively feature a beaming well-dressed woman surrounded by her loving family. They’re all getting along, attractive, enjoying delicious foods and fun times.
Today we celebrate those women who do that “hardest job they’ll ever love,” and I’ve been wondering what it is about this role I love most. Obviously, you get the kids, cute as buttons when they first appear wide eyed and downy soft. Memories of those early years linger — the soft lovely smell of baby powder, the sound of swishing diapers as your little ones first crawl and then toddle around the house. Those sweet baby doll dimples on your baby’s fingers, the small of their backs when they’re sitting up as you dress them, the startle reflex where in an instant their arms resemble orchestra conductors’, the little stars their five fingers make as they begin grasping things or reaching for you. The toys, strollers, bassinets and high chairs that fill your home, the cries, the baby giggles, ear infections and scraped knees. I could go on and on. But I’ll stop with this one, the sweetest memory of all: that they make you their world. You’re their Google, their everything, their portal to discovery.
The sleepless nights, the endless school forms to complete, soccer practices, teacher conferences, dances, hurt feelings, missed homework, you’re privy to it all. Unlike a job where you might be limited to your role which may or may not interest you, here you can do it all if you want. Give yourself that promotion you’ve wanted, expand your role on a whim. So much you improvise because, necessity IS the mother of invention. Which preschool is best, when is dinner, what’s for dinner? The list goes on and you get to write the script, drawing on your own childhood on what to keep or bury, what you eat, where you vacation, what they wear.
Soon enough they grow up and compare you to other moms and later discover all that you don’t know. So in so’s mother let’s them stay out later, why can’t we have (insert overly sweet juice brand, tv in your room, bigger car, better clothes). I did it too. There was Lisa in third grade whose mother packed her the most perfect lunches. Shaved ham piled high on gorgeous deli bread, a full bag of chips vs the little baggie with a short stack we got, and some gorgeous enormous cookie. Where is this deli they found? Our A&P didn’t have anything close. I rolled along with my peanut butter and bacon (actually REALLY good if you haven’t tried) or packaged slippery deli meat (I ate it often but OMG not today), uninspired American cheese on white bread (why the mayo, mom?). I’d of course come home and ask, “Why can’t we have shaved ham?” and go into detail about the glorious sandwich Lisa’s mom packs her. Or there was that girl in eighth grade who was super smart, beautiful and always perfectly dressed. One day she appeared with her pressed cords and Sperry topsiders (or were they docksiders? I never could catch up with the right ones). I felt lesser but I knew I’d be in hand-me-downs because it’s just what we did, so I didn’t whine about the topsiders. Actually, looking back on it I was content in my Tretorns.
You give birth and, in that minute, you’ve transitioned to a mother. You think on your feet, show up, produce opinions, advice, meals, birthday celebrations, wardrobes, a home, your heart, all of you. We’re all doing our best, but let’s be honest, who really knows what they’re doing? That you’re there is a biggie. Your children run to you in the night when they’ve had a bad dream, or when dinner is ready or when they’ve finished artwork or aced a test they must show you. You’re always there. A fixture, a beacon, a friendly mountain they can climb. You’ve melded into the furniture – the bed, the couch, the kitchen sink. Your presence is felt all over and when they call out for you, you answer and if you can’t, you find someone else to. Whenever a child call’s out “mom” in a crowded room ,we all turn our heads to answer. Even now with grown children, I know I still do.
There’s no manual on motherhood. My own mother died before I even married, so I didn’t get any advice from her. All these years moms have held their ground, stood firm by their choices amid the whines. Never once when I didn’t get the lunch I wanted did I think any less of my mom. Or think she didn’t love me as much as Lisa’s mom loved her. That love was just there. Always. I think of her often and today being Mother’s Day, especially today. She was always up. I don’t remember her showering or getting ready for the day because that was done hours before anyone woke. The engines had started – the coffee – Taster’s Choice stirred into a Corningware pot with a wooden spoon. Mathis Dairy milk splashed over the top. You see her face your whole life and never once consider that someday you might not anymore. But that day does come, and you’re left trying to repaint her image for your mind. It’s funny, the visage is cloudy but the feelings are still so clear.
So what is it you do? You don’t have to explain. You’re doing it every day. (please see video below) I remind myself we’re all works in progress, and we should loose the shame. Instead we ought to keep giving out our love, saving big doses for ourselves. Hats off to all of you “motherers” who came before, who are here now and who will be here in the future. And big love to you, mom. xoxoxo