I walk into the room and as if caught in the act, the kids scramble around the room, tissue paper flying in the air, loud whispering, they tell me to “Close my eyes!” and when I inquire about what’s going on, they tell me “Nothing.” Then it hits me, Mother’s Day is coming.
As this day fast approaches, I reflect on what I have learned about motherhood thus far. There are so many things that my mother never told me or prepared me for.
(Don’t be fooled by the above photo…This is the only pic I have of me and all 4 which was taken at a wedding. My uniform normally consists of jogging pants, hoodie, Converse All-Stars, and no make-up or brushed hair.)
I have learned that my heart is capable of more than I realized. When I had my first child, I never thought that I could love that way again. When I was pregnant with the second, I was so afraid that there wouldn’t be enough room in my heart for her. Then I had her and instead of trying to find the space in my already full heart, I felt my heart grow. I am amazed at how my heart has grown to accommodate the love I have for each child.
My heart has also been broken many times. Watching #2 cry hysterically last year every day as I said good-bye to her at school almost killed me daily. I can’t tell you how many times I would get back to the parking lot after I had to peel her off my body and not only cry for her but also fight every urge I had to take her home and just home-school her. My heart breaks when #3 is crying because she is snubbed at the playground or when #1 squirms out of holding my hand when we’re in public. My heart breaks just because I know I can’t protect them (and I shouldn’t protect them) from everything.
The other amazing thing is how many times my heart swells each day for different reasons. For example, #3 has ballet every Wednesday. Literally, next door to the ballet studio is a gym housed with play equipment and toys that #2 and #4 enjoy while #3 is doing her thing. I am constantly going in and out of the gym, sneaking a peek on the ballet class just to make sure #3 is ok. I stepped out for about 30 seconds, and in this time, #4 fell off the trike (as I was later told by other parents). All toddlers have this moment when they fall or hurt themselves where they don’t cry right away but wait to see if there was a reaction from anyone around them. Apparently, at the moment of her fall, all the parents in the gym gasped and stood up, ready to comfort the little one. But #2 had already scooped up #4 into her arms and held her tight before she could become hysterical. I went back into the gym and #2 was helping #4 back on the trike. I was completely unaware of the incident until another parent started singing the praises of my children. This parent was completely amazed at the close bond between my children and this incident convinced her to go for her fourth child. My kids tend to do that a lot.
I have learned I can’t watch certain movies anymore. Anything to do with children being harmed or the loss of a child, I cannot bear. I cry when I hear of any child being abused, neglected, or exploited.
I have learned how to make every moment a teachable moment to my children. They learn through example and experience. When you choose to find the silver lining instead of cursing your luck, when you are grateful instead of dwelling on what you lack, when you are compassionate instead of angry, you are teaching your children to do the same.
I have learned that I do not have many photos of me with the kids. I’m always behind the camera trying to capture the moments. The metaphor for motherhood… more of a behind-the-scenes and supporting role.
I have learned that there is nothing worse than when my children are sick. I am feeling every laboured cough, stomach pain, joint ache, body chill right along with them. The worst part is the helpless feeling that you just can’t take the pain away so all you do is hold them, tell them stories, sing to them – anything you can do to distract them from the discomfort.
I have learned that the sound of “Mama” can be the sweetest sound but also the last thing I want to hear sometimes especially when the sentence is “Mama, where is my (insert obscure object here)?”
I have learned that only mama can make things better.
I have learned that without a sense of humour and optimistic moments, I would not have survived the last 11 years.
I have learned the hardest thing for me to do is to remain consistent.
I have learned how picking battles can save my sanity. Do I really care that #3 wants to wear rain boots with a formal dress?
I have learned that the milestones aren’t as memorable as the everyday routines. I can’t remember when each began to talk but I do remember the more seemingly insignificant moments like when the younger three started playing together for the first time, or when #1 first wanted to be alone in her room and the feeling of wanting to just hold her tight (so she wouldn’t grow up).
I have learned more about who I am and what I am made of from my children than soul-searching in solitude.
I have learned how exhaustion, illness, and impracticality won’t stop me from baking cupcakes, writing invitations, blowing balloons, helping with projects, or any other effort for my kids until the wee hours of the morning.
I have learned that everything gets harder as they get older. The older they get, the harder the questions. The older they get, the more complex and gray are the answers. Thanks to the school yard, this is the latest question that made my heart stop: “What’s a condom?”
I have learned that watching my kids play together is a simple thing that makes me happy.
I have learned that time flies fast as you watch your kids grow. First you’re kissing their tiny feet the size of a chapstick and the next thing you know they’re feet are the same size as yours.
I have learned that regardless of the type of mother you are – single, married, young, old, working, stay-at-home – we all struggle with balance and at some point forget to take care of ourselves.
I have learned to let go more instead of holding on to them so tight because I’m not ready for them to grow…because I think holding on to them may somehow defy the natural laws of science and slow down the growth process.
I have learned that my children are not extensions of myself but are individuals distinct from me. I can’t project my desires and dreams onto them. I can only support them as they choose their own paths that will fulfill them. It is exciting and overwhelming watching them grow into themselves.
I have learned that it is difficult to raise girls in today’s sexually-charged culture where it is easy to confuse feminism and empowerment with promiscuity and self-disrespect. At the same time, I am also aware of how grateful to have my girls born in this era where women CAN do everything.
I have learned that half the things I do for my children will never be recognized or acknowledged and I’m ok with that. It just makes me realize that I haven’t recognized or acknowledged all of my own mother’s sacrifices.
I have learned that being present with my children, engaging them through open-ended questions and making eye contact as I really listen to what they have to say, and not being distracted by other tasks does wonders for their behaviour they exhibit.
I have learned to stop doubting myself as a mother too much and to cut myself some slack. I and every mother out there is doing the best we can with what we have and we can only hope and pray that it is enough.
So to all the mothers, who are either still in the trenches like me or who are now mothering when needed as their children are grown, I say:
You deserve to be celebrated every day. You are in an elite group of women whose resilience, strength, and patience is unparalleled. Being a mother gives you the greatest understanding of what it means to love in the purest form. You are blessed.
Happy Mother’s Day….
FYI: I will be celebrating mother’s day by cheering for #1 at her soccer tournament in the Niagara region in serious soccer-mom style.
(To all the men and kids out there who don’t know what to get Mom…give her a break from the kids and just tell her that she is appreciated…by that I mean tell her that you notice the folded laundry, the little love notes in the kids’ lunch bags, the mopped floor… That’s all it takes.)