In the week after Mother’s Day, I found myself reflecting on the oh-so-many odes to moms on Facebook. They made me smile. Folks love their moms! And chuckle a little bit. Folks love hyperbole and clichés! And wince just an itsy bit thinking about my own legacy. What do I want it to be?
I am pretty sure that my kids will love me fiercely, whether I earn it or not. Parents, maybe especially moms, seem to receive a pure and unexamined devotion from their kids, and this is a gift I try not to take lightly. On the flip side, I am aware that my time raising them is likely to be the most significant part of my life. But not theirs. I’m here to help guide them, to be a pillar for them, but I am not wholly indispensable. And as time goes on, I’ll be demoted from less-than-indispensable to superfluous. And that’s my job! I’ll have done it right once I become obsolete to these people, whom I love more than I can actually feel all at once without dissolving into a puddle.
So, kiddos míos, to step out of the mire of the day-to-day, here’s what I hope to impart. Facebook Of The Future will tell us whether any of it is born out.
“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! Because of you, I’m not scared of falling down.”
I hope to show you resilience. Even though I am the last person to admit it out loud because of some potent blend of Midwestern reserve and superstition, I think you’re both pretty great at a lot of things. And I foresee that there will be a lot that comes easy to you. But it won’t all come easy. And you’re going to mess up. You’ll come up short sometimes. You’ll hurt a friend. You will be hurt by friends. Your nerve will fail you at times and you may live to regret chances not taken. But whether it’s because you swung and missed or never stepped up the plate, I hope can look back at the part of your life that we shared and know that failures aren’t fatal
You will have seen me fess up to your father, at least a thousand times, that I did something stupid and wholly avoidable. That I gouged the side of our brand new car three days in (yep). Or maybe I locked us out. Again. Perhaps folks need to clear out of the house while I attend to the pot I set ablaze, so’s I can turn off the smoke alarms and let a bit of the toxic black smoke out. I’m sure I’m not done with sticking my foot in my mouth, or arguing with someone close to me. You’ll see me cry. But I hope you also pay attention to me when I dust myself off, take responsibility, and just maybe learn a little bit from it. I hope you don’t hear me spew excuses, blaming the world, the wind, or my bad luck. Instead, see that I move on while trying not to keep inflicting the same old wounds. (Except the key losing business. That doesn’t seem to have a cure. For the constant glass breaking, however, it took 32 years, but I’ve resolved to drink out of plastic tumblers until you two are old enough to spot glass shards before stepping on them.)
“Thanks, Mom, for being a great mom, sometimes. And for looking me in the eyes and saying sorry when you really weren’t.”
I want you to see forgiveness, both to receive it and be asked for it as well. Did you know that I love your dad? This might be another lesson in itself, but, anyways, I do. I really love him. It’s never been a romcom fairy tale (is there anyway to spare you from that delusion?). And we’ve had trying moments (thanks almost always to me). But do know that I love him and he loves me. You kids, you’ve added dimensions to our life we didn’t know possible. But we loved each other before you, and it’s something that exists on its own. I hope this fact shines when we aren’t getting along. Or, more commonly, when we’re both so spent that we get frustrated easily and take it out on one another. Pay attention to how we remember, eventually, that we are on the same team. And those snipes we made, or the eyes we rolled, we let it go. And whenever we’ve got the presence of mind, we give a kiss and say “sorry about that. I’m tired.” Or better yet, maybe sometimes we don’t wait for an apology. We can see that the negativity manifesting is a sign that person needs a break, some slack, a hug. And we give it without being asked.
My Eli, you have been sick a lot lately, buddy. Ear infection after ear infection. Nothing, my superstition would have me point out, too too serious. But painful, and upsetting at times. The cure has been as bad as the affliction at times, as the side effects render you ill in other ways. Which is just to say my fuse has been short. When one of my babies is in pain, it’s like it becomes instantly impossible to divide my attention. Even when the other baby needs it too. So, anyways, the other night, Eli was losing it. Exhausted, painful, needed medicine he didn’t want and I didn’t want to give him, and Edie, bouncing around. Shouting and singing, happy mostly, but just wanted me to pay attention to her. To get my attention, my Edie, you tried to help. In “helping” you took sharp scissors that you are forbidden from touching and cut upon a number of little packages of these vapor-izing packets I put in your brother’s room when he’s congested. You didn’t get hurt, but you risked it. And a few dollars were lost in merchandise. But mostly I was just overwhelmed and I yelled at you to go to your room to wait for me because you were in my way. It took me about 90 seconds to see straight and call out to you. “Edie? Can you come here?” “I don’t want to look at you right now!” You said that. Those words. My 3 ½ year old teenager. It actually made me smile, because I know I can be a formidable opponent when we find ourselves at odds, and I’m happy when I see that you don’t fold in the face of my put-on toughness. You’re actually tougher. It’s a relief. But I coaxed you in, and I told you I was sorry. Sorry for yelling, sorry for not acknowledging that you were trying to help me and brother. You made sure to tell me that “yelling is a bad choice.” Correct. And your lips quivered but you stayed firm when you said I shouldn’t do that ever, ever, anymore. And then you forgave me. I really needed that, but far more importantly, I was in awe of the person who gave it to me.
“Shout out to my mom for letting drain the life out of her like The Machine in The Princess Bride!”
I am your rock, guys, for always. You know that the Giving Tree is a mom, right? She gives and gives and gives, to her seeming detriment, until she is no more. And this is not a pitiful lot in life, nor is it more than you deserve. You never need to give to me. Of course, you do. Endlessly, you do. With your smiles and embraces, your warm bodies, the way your breathing slows in my arms. But this is not your job and I am going to try so hard to never make it your burden. My cup may not always be full enough to turn on a 100 Watt smile, have an impromptu dance party, and sing songs to make you laugh. But that’s for me to figure out. What I’ve got, you can use. I will deal with my own refueling. (On that note, though, do try and be dears and not fight me on going to YMCA daycare for an hour at a time. Mkay?)
One day I will show you pictures of me when I was a younger lady. I was kind of cute. I didn’t realize it then, but these days, while I don’t regularly ogle old pictures of myself, when I catch a glimpse, I’m like, hey sexy Rachael! In fact, I’ve thought about seeking state sponsorship for bringing down teen pregnancy by wearing t-shirts with full body photos of a 25-year old me on them while I am out with you two. Eyes off the cute babies, passers-by. Look at ME!! And while I do hope to regain a bit of my corporeal fortitude (again: please be nice to the YMCA daycare people!), I know there’s no turning back the hands of time. I wouldn’t want to, and it wouldn’t matter if I did. So turn The Machine up to 50. I’ll only be mostly dead.*
*Do you understand Princess Bride references? If not, let’s go watch it. How’s about a movie date with your old mama!?
“Mom, thank you for showing me that I don’t have to be anyone special to be fully be me.”
You should know that you don’t need to be special, in the singular, A+, big bucks, academic success way. Take it day by day. This has been an integral part of my journey as a mother. In fact, it inspired the name of this blog. I’m no natural at this. But I do try. When the decision was made to move to Germany when I was 8 months pregnant with Edie, a big part of that was that I would be home with Edie for at least the first year or two. I’d never actually had designs on being a stay at home mom. I assumed I’d work. It wasn’t an issue I had fleshed out in my head. More like, I’d gone to school and then some more school, all with eyes on a career, and so of course, I’d work. I was married at 23, way before 18 year old me thought I would be. Life’s funny. And in that respect, pretty great. And also a whole other story unto itself. I digress. So, I was home with Edie and sort of thought without thinking hard about it, this will be easy. I figured the hard part would be the juggling career and childcare. (Make no mistake: I know this is it’s own very hard part. Just not the only one.) Turns out, staying home with a baby? Crazy hard! For me at least. And hard in ways that I had never known. I couldn’t learn it to death. Sheer will and force of intellect does not a good mother make. Being a mom has meant a whole lot of humility, and the more peace I make with just being ok, the better I am. As a person and as a caretaker.
So my sweet Edie, with your perpetual skinned knees. If you did indeed inherit my distinct lack of grace, I hope it doesn’t take you until you are in your 30s to realize that it’s fun to dance in spite of a shortage of rhythm. Eli, my little scientist. You already gently bite down on your stuck out tongue when you are concentrating, just like your Dad. I hope you always love to learn. But that you can hang onto that love without attaching it to validation.
You two are so indescribably special to me. But you need not be special or extraordinary in anyway. I hope you can look at your ok mom and get a sense of this.
“Just want to say HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to my mediocre, angry but apologetic, forgetful, clumsy, grey-haired (but with a rockin’ bod thanks to YMCA fitness classes? Eh??) mom!”
Who knows what you two will think of me. I’m going to try not to care. But these things I’ve written, they are guideposts that I will try to bear in mind. I hope you do remember to call me on Mother’s Day, even if you can’t find a greeting card whose gushy sentiments you can get on board with whole-heartedly. I’m so lucky to have you both, my little teachers.