On this Mother’s Day, 2014, I’ve been sitting here thinking, obviously, about what being a mother meant to me – and means to me still as I sit in my empty nest! It’s thirty-two years since I held my first born in my arms. I was nineteen, and overwhelmed with the awesome responsibility of it all, terrified that I would mess it up, that I would mess him up, that I would just fail. I had spent my pregnancy reading everything I could get my hands on, and academically, I knew exactly what to do in any circumstance, from tantrums to choking to swearing to head lice! I knew exactly when the milestones were supposed to occur. I knew how to swaddle, to change nappies (!) to burp, to bathe. Surprisingly, I was somewhat shocked to immediately feel this strong mother bear sensation as I looked at him, and know that I loved him completely and endlessly, and realize, with a jolt, that I would quite literally kill for him, or die for him. Yes, I knew every practical baby/child tidbit there was to know, but I hadn’t expected to be slammed with a kind of love I’d never really felt before. Go figure – I was always a little weird!
Even though I was overwhelmed with love, I was kinda rigid in my parenting style. Determined as I was to prove wrong all those who thought I was too young, I stuck to a plan and a schedule and was mildly surprised to find it worked very well. He did things when they were ‘supposed’ to be done, he was cheerful, he thrived! Yay for me, I thought. I’m pretty damn good at this!
Until he was two or three and he asserted his independence and resentment of the rigid schedule! Then all hell began to break loose. Shit, I thought. It was a fool’s paradise. I’m a sucky mother after all!
Melanie came along when Danny was four. I thought I didn’t care about the sex of this second baby, but clearly that was something I just said because it’s what you’re supposed to say, because I was over the top thrilled with my baby girl. Not only a girl-child, but a beautiful, pale, plump cheeked cherub with huge, calm, bright blue eyes. I had a little more understanding of how the whole mothering thing worked by then, so I was less rigid but no less in love. I remember sitting looking at them one day, as Danny leaped somewhat suicidally off the back of the couch, his Superman cape flying out behind him, and just missed Mel, who had started to crawl, and although my heart was pounding, I was overwhelmed with love for them both. Somehow, we had created these remarkable, scary little people! Amazing.
And Steven came squawking into our world a year and a half after Mel, a little blue man, with the cord wrapped around his neck and needing all sorts of attention, like suctioning and monitoring. He was colicky and shrieky for the first few months, refused to breastfeed as happily as his siblings had, and was just a completely different child. I was just as in love, of course, but I was overprotective of him, less inclined to be patient and understanding if he was in danger from his overactive brother’s antics. At six months old, I gave up the breast feeding battle, gave him a bottle and watched him suddenly thrive! Jeez! From that day to this, I never judge any mother who chooses, for whatever reason, not to breastfeed! To each his own, indeed!
And with that, I was all done! No more for me. I would throw myself into being the best possible mother of these three beautiful and much loved people. I was much more relaxed by now, and much less rigid. But still, I had no desire to be their best friend. I was their mother, and I had a job to do! It was easier back then because everyone felt the same way! No was a word they needed to learn at home, because the adult world is full of ‘no’s, and how will they know how to handle it if they never hear it! Yep, there would be time for friendship when they became adults, perhaps! Call me old-fashioned – I still think it’s the best way!
I think I was a decent mother for the next few years. My life revolved around theirs. From sporting events, to regular play dates, to craft times and birthday parties and bedtime stories and endless lullabies. I tried to adjust my parenting to their individual personalities and tried to figure out the challenges in creative ways. I loved them all so passionately, and I wanted the world for them.
And suddenly, unexpectedly (but joyously, only ever joyously) there was Rachel! Born in her sister’s image, she was so gorgeous, another plump, pale and blue eyed beauty. And how everyone adored her, this late addition! There were battles over who would hold her next, who would push the stroller, who would dress her. She was calm and easy. She fed well, slept well and was a delight for us all!
Decisions were made over the next decade and our lives changed radically. I made the decisions for all of us – with trepidation, with hope. No decision was ever made that wasn’t mulled over, slept on, considered from all angles. And no decision (even the biggest of them all) was made without everyone in mind. So some things worked out well, and others did not, and that’s life, I guess. I know they know I love them as fiercely as I did on the day they were born, when I whispered thoughts and promises into their new ears. I kept to those promises as best I could, and on one of them especially, I have never wavered. I promise to love you through anything in your life and mine. My sweet four. My life.
They think I have favorites. But we mothers know, don’t we? There are no favorites at all – there never have been or could be. There are just different relationships, is all. What works for one doesn’t work for another, and what one needs, another one does not, and I hate that that can be seen as favoritism. I could no more choose one over another than fly in the air! And I love that they are different, from me and from each other.
I love that they are good people, who care about each other and the world around them. That they are strong and tough, that they meet their own challenges. I love that they have good work ethics and empathy and love.
I wish the world for them on this mother’s day and always, and while everyone is thanking their mothers today, I want to thank my kids! Thanks for being such great kids! Fun, funny, creative, smart, caring and cool. And all that and cute too!!
And I love them to the moooooooon and back… forever!