Mothers all share certain moments: the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Peace Corps used to advertise that they could offer “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” This makes me think that the one who penned that expression either did not have kids or considered parenthood to be more of a calling than a job — like the priesthood. There is a quid-pro-quo aspect to motherhood: for every proud, happy moment, there is 2-year-old melting down at the candy counter or a sleepless night with a teenager.
In fact, if there is one thing the Peace Corps could offer more of, it would probably be sleep. I could write reams of stories about how being a mother had me up at night. Whether changing diapers, soothing a sick baby or just lying awake worrying about a child’s current concern, motherhood has been all-consuming. There have been no higher highs or lower lows. From the moment I held my first child, a world opened up to me that I did not know existed.
I was definitely an obnoxious new mother. In the early 1980s, babies did not routinely room with their mothers. But I was so concerned that my baby might be looking for me — or that someone would take him, or even trade their less incredible baby for him — that I spent what few hours I could have slept that first night, in the nursery, rocking my son. I think the nurse realized that it would be easier for all concerned to just let me hold him.
I could not imagine anything as great as my little boy. So, throughout my second pregnancy, I prepared for son No. 2. For this reason, our daughter wore blue for her first week of life. Though it matched her eyes, from the first pink outfits she received as gifts to this day, I cannot see pink and not think of my daughter. I could not believe it. She was as amazing as her brother!
I was getting conceited about this baby thing. As a rookie mom, I had delivered the Best Baby ever born. Then, repeated the feat, my second time out. Incredible! It sounds funny now, but I could not imagine that anyone who saw my beautiful children was not as enchanted as I was. Then, in the middle of our busy, happy family life, we found out that we would be blessed again. There has never been a more loved baby than our youngest, because he had four people welcoming him with open arms.
Thankfully robust now, he was born sick with strep. As I got to know other parents in the NICU, it occurred to me that they thought their babies were pretty cool, too. It did not diminish my biased perception of my own children, but at least I now realized that my unbridled enthusiasm needed to be dialed down.
Twenty-eight years of motherhood has kept me humble. I have learned that no amount of love or prayer can completely shelter kids from life. We’ve pulled all-nighters with sick kids, paced hospital floors through surgeries and hugged kids who were hurt, whether it was their feelings or something physical. Our little band of jocks managed to give me Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome with their sports injuries. They’ve each broken a leg, thanks to football, hockey and skateboarding.
And their other pursuits — soccer, baseball, lacrosse, rugby and riding — have racked up the list of “Moments I Will Never Forget.” I remember each injury from the moment of impact or coach’s phone call, up to the last day of rehab.
Besides broken legs, the list includes a dislocated knee, stress fractures, broken teeth, fingers, noses, concussions, stitches, sprains, ligament tears, a broken collarbone, fully separated shoulder and a collapse on the ice due to a previously undiagnosed premature ventricular arrhythmia.
Oh yes, then there was the New Year’s Eve spent with the burst appendix. I have learned that no matter how many times one’s children are hurt or sick, it never feels routine.
We’ve been so incredibly blessed with healthy kids that I cannot imagine the plight of moms (or dads) whose children are fighting lift-threatening illnesses or injuries. And there has to be a special place in heaven for parents whose children have arrived before their parents. I am not sure if the word humble does justice to the reality of a parent’s love.
By the grace of God, the good times have definitely outweighed the bad. For every night spent in an emergency room, there have been weeks of goodness, so sweet that they might go by unappreciated if not for the unpleasant interruptions.
For every disappointment, there have been hundreds of moments of satisfaction, pride and accomplishment. For every goodbye from elementary schools and camps, prep schools and colleges and places of their own, there have been multiple hellos.
As we are forced to let them go, we learn that their happiness really does shine through our feelings of loss at their departures.
My eldest child winces at my Christmas Newsletters, which share only the good news of our family’s year. So the thought of being featured in my column would probably make him shudder. So I am glad he does not read my column, being a couple of states away.
But this Mother’s Day, I am reminded of one of my proudest moments as his mom. I know that tomorrow I will probably be writing about tripping over snowboard boots and impaling myself on hockey sticks… so let me enjoy this memory today.
Those who know him probably think I am about to talk about football or hockey. Captain of all his teams, he led a golden life as a student-athlete, no doubt. But that’s not even close.
My “moment” with him came after his prep-school graduation. Amidst all the excitement and pride in that huge crowd at Andover, came a tiny, Hispanic woman, who worked in the dining hall, about my mom’s age.
To my surprise, she went right up to my son, hugged and kissed him, then led him over to me. She patted his chest and said in a thick accent, “Good boy. Always please. Always thank you. I will miss him.”
Her words did something all the lofty speeches, acclaimed academic awards and rubbing of elbows with America’s most elite families had failed to do. They made me cry. And that was my moment. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms.