14 years ago I was awarded the mommy title and never looked back. Who was I before I became a mother? I vaguely remember waking up thinking of myself first. As a child, I didn’t play with baby dolls or babysit. Having a sister seven years my junior was plenty motherhood for me. I didn’t even think I wanted to have kids.
Before children, life was one big mystery – but our offspring can serve as microscopes into a much simpler world, one whose roots are quite simple. As a species, we repopulate the breed, birth lights into our universe, creating energy which burns brightly and eventually goes out. Our beginning and the end is guaranteed but the middle is unpredictable; it’s a deck of cards or a roll of the dice.
You never know what to expect when you become a mother. I’ve watched mothers all around me throughout my life, but nothing can prepare you for the real deal. There is no way to practice letting go of yourself and filling your whole body with love for another helpless being. When the time comes, it just happens.
In high school, we had a project where we had to carry a raw egg around, pretending it was a baby, but this exercise couldn’t be further from reality. An egg has no ears, no energy, no feelings. The skin of a boy bullied at school is far easier to crack than an eggshell. Even the Tamagotchi would have been a better exercise in parenting, with their sporadic beeping urging to be fed. Another thing people don’t mention about motherhood: you are responsible for feeding them 24 hours a day for the next 18 years – and if you think breastfeeding is challenging, look forward to those Costco bills when your teenagers inhale fruit like oxygen.
Mothers need the power to control because life presents a scary and dangerous terrain, but we navigate the road blindly; never knowing what lies ahead. We buy time by sending our kids to school and camp year after year until they’re old enough to set free to flail around on their own. As parents we will continue to love you, support you, encourage you (or discourage you) and share stories about life experiences, which you will discount because you will want to make your own mistakes.
It’s OK. It’s all OK as long as you’re alive and breathing. It’s hard to convey the value and fragility of human life to a teenage boy whose hormones arm him with a false sense of bravado and immortality. But I try. I point out texting drivers, I point out synthetic drugs, I point out pointless heroine overdoses. I pray what I see is what I have. I pray there are no hidden demons. I pray when he says “I’m fine,” it means he indeed is. I pray for him to have the courage to tell me if he’s hurt and I pray I know the right path to help him in the way he needs my help, versus how I would help myself.
I want my son to understand how fast life moves; humans ache for progress. We want to educate ourselves, discover more, be stronger, build taller – and it’s far simpler. I want my teenager to stop and look around: life is excruciatingly beautiful when it runs on auto-pilot. Bees make honey, turtle lay eggs on beaches, hummingbirds flap their wings so quickly it looks like they float in mid-air. Why do we need to fly to the moon when we can just visit Craters of the Moon National Park.
Marvels of life surround us. Vibrant, vitamin-rich food grows in dark, dirty soil. All types of life start as tiny seeds and grow into miracles. My teenager is part of the social norm, with a device in his hands, and I plead with him to put it down, look up, and use his hands for more than gaming. I wish he could see the screen is merely a distraction from living, real human connection, and being present in the moment.
As I entered the covenant of motherhood, my heart became a sponge at the mercy of my children. There is no way to comprehend the capacity of love your heart can stand until you cradle your newborn in your arms and marvel at how perfectly they fit. After 14 years, I’ve realized my child was the puzzle piece I didn’t know I needed to complete my picture.