I sat across from my mom at a restaurant and she handed me some money for gas, which I refused. I wanted this day to be for us, no strings attached, on me, but like most moms, she couldn’t let it go. She is a caregiver, a provider, she has the innate need to take care of her children. “Mom, you took care of me for twenty years, I owe you.” That’s what I said, as if a ten dollar bill could begin to cover what my mom did for me in twenty years.
You see, I am THAT person-the one who lived in blissful denial of all my mother did to care for me until I became a mother myself. We wanted to have children for so long that when I heard other moms complain about the woes of motherhood I would smile politely and nod my head sympathetically but inwardly be rolling my eyes and think something like, they call them bundles of JOY for a reason. Even then, I wasn’t seeing the whole picture. This was before the middle of the night calls to change a wet bed, to clean up vomit, or to soothe away a nightmare. This was long before the unspeakable trials of potty training and being woken up every morning to screaming (yes, even now). This was before the frustrations, the heartache, the total exhaustion of motherhood.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so blessed to be a mom. I am so deeply fond of and completely in love with both of my girls. I truly understand what it means to be a “mama bear” when someone has tried to mess with my girls (yeah-this a warning- DO NOT mess with my children. If you do, well….just don’t. I have a clean criminal record and I’d like to keep it that way). Still, no one tells you how much pain your children can inflict on you in just common, careless, everyday ways.
Yesterday we took our girls to a local fair. We saw and petted pigs, horses, rabbits, cows, sheep, goats, chickens and alpacas. Yeah-alpacas. We saw a miniature pony show, rode rides, watched a sheep fashion show, and two magic shows. Oh yeah, and they got to jump in a bouncy castle. It was….um…it was….how do I put this…..frustrating. It went a little something like this, (me) “Honey, you can’t pet a horse from behind….just trust me. You really don’t want to pet it from behind….because you don’t if you want to keep your teeth and face in general!…don’t put your fingers in the rabbit cage, they might think they are carrots…..no, we aren’t going to buy food right now. You just ate, you will be okay. Stop whining now or we will go home right now!…sweetheart, watch out so you don’t get run over by that mini horse cart……honey, it’s okay. It will be okay. See? Daddy’s ok. The magician just wants Daddy to help him with a trick….please, please, please for the eighth time stop putting things in your mouth….Nora, stop running ahead. I don’t care if you want to go that way, we are going this way…..Sit down….I told you to sit down while the ride is going….sit down, please, you are scaring your sister….SIT DOWN!!….” You get the idea. One of the hardest things about being a mom that no one tells you, that I don’t think anyone can tell you until you experience it for yourself, is the total heartache and courage it takes to be a mom. Even without me giving you every detail of our day, I’m sure you can image the scenario. The kids complained about how hot it was. No sooner would we walk into one barn they would want to go to another one. At the top of the ferris wheel, one child kept tormenting the other one and terrifying her parents by not sitting, trying to look out over the edge, rock the cart, and stomp her feet repeatedly for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of the rest of us. They whined, fussed, dragged their feet, bickered, tried to take charge, scowled, cried….again, you can see where I am going with this. But despite all of that, we are trying to make memories, because we believe one day they will look back and say, “Do you remember going to the fair? I used to love going to the fair. And do you remember that one time…..”. Yet not once did they say “thank you” without being prompted. Not once did it occur to them that this was a treat, not something they somehow had earned the right to. When they misbehaved or complained and were corrected for it, they resented us for pointing it out to them. It rarely occurs to them that perhaps they were at fault and not us for their unhappiness.
Again, my point is NOT to complain about my children, or even about being a mom, but more as a very small, minute way of thanking my own mom. I remember one time when I was just out of high school pulling a favorite jacket of mine out of the dryer, and the zipper on it had melted. I stormed up the stairs to my mom who was faithfully making dinner, that I was NOT helping with, I might add, with hands on my hips demanding why she had put my favorite jacket in the dryer. Did she see? Did she see what had happened when she put my jacket in the dryer? It was my favorite jacket. Now what was I supposed to wear? And do you know how my mother responded? Did she throw it back in my face and tell me that maybe I should be doing my own laundry? Did she tell me off like I deserved? No. She apologized. My poor mother apologized to me. I will never forget that. It took years after remembering that incident to even feel remorse for the way I had acted, to feel shame for the level of ingratitude I displayed.
I can clean up all sorts of bodily fluids while gagging my way through it. I can wipe runny noses, scrub crayons off the walls, make breakfast, lunch and dinner, kiss boo-boos (real and imaginary), put Barbie heads back on, pick out outfits, write “I love you” notes in lunchboxes, give baths, read stories to, sing to sleep, help find shoes….this is the part of motherhood that is often exhausting, but so rewarding. I love nursing my children back to health when they are sick. I love that when they are really hurt, they only want me. I love that they ask me to make them pink eggs or have girl day or a tea party with them. I love helping them learn new things and watching them explore a new world. I love, absolutely LOVE when they are trying to learn a new word and say it wrong. I didn’t have to heart to tell the girls a backpack isn’t a “pack pack” and even found myself calling it that. I love that they want me to scratch their backs and sing them a song every night before bed. I love the special memories that we are making together that only we can boast, like watching trains from the porch with a hot cup of cocoa before school. These are the picturesque moments I only dreamed about, and they are so much better than I imagined they would be. These are the moments you want to capture in a bottle and hope they never fade away. These are the moments that make me sigh when I check on the girls after they have fallen asleep and make me wish they would stay this little forever. This part of being a mom is something priceless. This is what makes it all worthwhile.
But, those other times, when it feels nearly impossible NOT to nag them every moment of the day because you have their best interest at heart that makes this job so difficult. Whether you are a mom like me and don’t want them to get kicked in the head by a horse or a cow and are forced to hold their wriggling hand in yours knowing they are resenting the heck out of you for it because they refused to listen, or the mom of an older child who has to be the one to tell them that they need to find a job because sleeping in and playing video games is not a viable option for a career choice. The hardest part about that is because every mom knows these moments are investments. Right now they won’t see your love, your sacrifice, they will only see how you are spoiling their fun. Every mom worth her salt knows that you have to prod, correct, and discipline for the well-being of her child that she loves more than life itself, even in a world where so much seems to be going against her efforts. Still, she must try because she loves her children so dearly. There is a verse that my mentor growing up always told me and still says to me now that is the mantra of every mom, “So I will very gladly spend and be spent for you, knowing the more I love, the less I be loved.” (2 Cor. 12:15)
True love is a sacrifice, because true love means putting someone else’s needs and desires much above your own. My desire to be liked, to be adored by my children (and this is such a great desire) often takes a backseat to what is best for my children. I think this, in my own humble experience, is the hardest part about being a parent. Parents (dads, too) know this more than anyone. So, finally, I want to thank my mom (and dad) for the sacrifice of love made to me growing up and even now. Thank you doesn’t begin to cover it, I know. A lunch out is a pitiful compensation. Still, thank you for cleaning up my messes, physical and emotional. Thank you for taking care of me with so little gratitude. Thank you for your diligence in correcting me though it took me years to acknowledge this as a sacrifice of love. Thank you for nagging, even when it’s not necessary, because you truly want what is best for me. Even now, I see you having trouble letting go because you want the very best and to see me be the best version of what God can make of me.
In short, thanks so much for being my mom.