Sunday, May 12, 2013
A Mother, Faults and All
I am the Mom of three on Earth with a fourth up in Heaven. I carried each of them inside me, doing what I hoped was enough to give them life. Knowing I was pregnant in April 1991, nine months before I first saw Sydney Rebecca’s face, I pause to think today how I’ve been a Mom for nearly half of my life.
When Sydney was born I began months of creeping to her side. Is she still breathing? Is she warm enough? Too warm? When she cried and cried, before I realized she was not getting enough from me and needed formula, I walked her under the kitchen pot lights for hours to soothe her. In her toddlerhood we played with laundry baskets and cool whip containers which made wonderful hats, and we cuddled and giggled as we read book after book. At night, I took my spot on the floor next to her crib. Sydney extended her hand through the bars to find me. For months, she drifted off to dreamland clutching my hand.
When I was expecting Emma I received false news that she was not healthy. Enduring tests, I waited by the phone for the diagnosis. When it came and they gave the “all clear”, I breathed for the first time in weeks. After her birth, I returned to months of making my way to the side of a crib. By then I knew which floorboard to avoid so as to make a silent entrance. At her changing table Emma would shake her arms, the first sign of bottled inner excitement and enthusiasm for life that would carry her through childhood and into her teens. There were also years of night terrors. But I learned how to endure the fright of those terrors and how to best bring her out of them. I read every article I could find. Why was she having them? Was she okay? Could I prevent them? She’d wake in the morning, completely unaware of them, and thankfully they stopped as she grew older.
Before I carried Paul, I lost a baby. Losing a child, even one that you never meet, forever changes a Mom’s heart. But I know that Joy is watching over us all and that I’ll meet her someday. And I thank her for the gift of my son. If it had not been for her sacrifice, I would not have had Paul who was born 13 months later.
When I carried Paul, I was in pain. I had never had any great discomfort carrying my other children. “Sometimes a woman’s body just starts wearing out”, my doctor said. I remember thinking this sounded foolish. I thought of my own Mom who had five children, and of her best friend Pauline who had seven. How could my body be wearing out so soon? But Paul was born, my body recovered, and I began raising my first little boy. He was a sweet baby, just as easy as his sisters had been, until he discovered he could screech. In his high chair he would make this hideous noise. Unable to talk, this was his way of communicating, but the twinkle in his eye after we each tried to tell him not to do that (as the windows were about to shatter), told us he was not about to make things easy for us. Paul has made his way through babyhood, childhood, and adolescence on a more independent path. Even as a toddler he showed us his stubbornness, his will power, his witty intelligence. But he has always been affectionate and loving; he is forever giving hugs, crawling over into our laps, long after the toddler years of requesting a “bubba-movie”, a movie and a bottle.
My three children are now aged 21, 17, and 13. I am so proud of the young people they have become. I am truly blessed. Two will be in college next fall. I wonder how my son will do alone with his old Mom and Dad for the next five years. Despite their successes and the good people they are, I always remain my own fiercest critic. As my children age, I can’t help but worry whether or not I have been doing right by them all these years. I think I have. I pray I have. Their childhoods went by so fast--how does one know for sure? Did I miss opportunities to do better? I have such wonderful memories but will they be enough to sustain each of them? Now, as Paul moves into his teen years and as the girls move to the next stages of their life, I am again reflecting on my job as a mother. I make mistakes nearly everyday. I am too loud one day and too quiet and introspective the next. I am too busy one minute but then I hover too much. There are days I worry too much over a clean house, the safety of each child’s adventures, or whether or not they are brushing their teeth or keeping their contacts clean. I am letting them hog the tv or letting them retreat to their bedrooms for hours. Are they okay? I am seeing too much of them and not enough of them all at the same time. I am giving them too much and not enough. I am too open and too honest. I am too emotional often. But do I cheer for them enough? Do I expect too much? I burden them unnecessarily at times, right? Was I too harsh yesterday? Am I being too lenient? Are we having enough fun? Am I taking enough time to listen? I think of the past week. I missed Paul’s lacrosse game to go to the spa. That was selfish, right? I snapped at Emma for not picking up a mess in the house that I myself had walked past for several days. That wasn’t fair to her. I did not send a finals week care package to Sydney. That wasn’t cool. Have I done anything well as a Mom recently? Has it been enough?
But I know that, down deep, I do my best, just as I have done every day since I first learned I was pregnant with my first born. I miss some ball games, I lose my patience every so often, and I am not the most consistent sender of care packages. But I am there for each of my children. And they know that.
God made me a worrier. He gave me a mouth which can articulately express my feelings but one that is sometimes harsh. He gave me strength, wisdom, and tenderness. He guided me through years of crying babies, projectile vomit, inaccurate diagnoses, screeching defiant toddlers, dentist and orthodontic bills, dirty bathrooms, carpools, endless fundraising, and teenagers who test the limits. And he blessed me with the opportunity to raise three beautiful, intelligent, affectionate, kind-hearted, motivated, self-directed, creative, talented, altruistic, hopeful, and loving children whose lives have enriched and sanctified my own. God knows we Moms all blow it at times. What matters is not that we are perfect Moms, but what we do after we screw up. We humble ourselves with an apology and a prayer, a resolve to do better, and we keep trying. God has to know, has to see that I never stop trying.
Sydney celebrated me today with a beautiful Facebook collage and caption. Emma met me at church with a bouquet of flowers. Paul cuddled with me on the couch early this morning then almost pushed me into a mud puddle as we walked across the church parking lot. Because that is how we are; this is how he truly shows his affection for me. Soon, I’m going to call my own Mom and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. I hope she is having a good day and feels as surrounded by love as I do. Oh, how I have come to fully appreciate everything she was for me, everything she did. But first, I’m going to get on my knees and thank God for making me a mother, faults and all.