Even though we make mistakes and sometimes fail miserably in our task, most of us never get up in the morning and say to ourselves, “Today, I’m gonna fuck my children up good.” We have good intentions, even when our actions go awry, even when we misunderstand, even when in an effort to keep our children safe, we overprotect them, in an effort to teach them discipline and provide a moral compass, we come down too hard on them, in an effort to provide comfort and compassion, we are too easy on them. Mothers are angels dancing on the head of a pin.
But along with the blame and guilt and life-encompassing responsibility, we have other things laid at our doorstep. Here are some of them:
The sweet contentment that comes from rocking a nursing baby in the family rocking chair by the window on a rainy day as the house sits quietly and all you can hear are the soft breaths and suckling sounds of your baby, and all you feel is her mouth on your nipple and her little hand resting on your breast. The world stops and all is well.
The absolute shambles of your kitchen after a pack of 9-year old boys – laughing with cracked voices, sometimes deep then screechingly high – invade it, plundering the refrigerator and pantry, on a summer’s day after a pick-up game of baseball.
The sleepy satisfaction you feel when your teen-aged daughter comes home from a night out with friends and sits on the edge of your bed, chattering excitedly about her evening for a good hour and then curls up next to you in bed, resting her head on your shoulder.
The deep, booming, goofy laugh of your son, 6’4’ tall, 250 pounds, his arm weighing heavy as he drapes it around your shoulders and says, in front of all his friends, “I love you, Mommy.”
The peace you feel when finally, after many restless hours, your child’s fever breaks, he stops fussing and both of you fall asleep, his head resting in your lap.
The absolute annoyance you feel (and pride) when your daughter mothers you by pestering you endlessly to get that damn colonoscopy when you turn 50.
The hysterical laughter you hide when you smell something burning in your son’s room, and when you enter to investigate, he and his best friend gainfully try to deny that they have set fire to a baseball but then abruptly confess they were merely conducting a "scientific experiment on the incendiary properties of baseballs."
The worry and pride you have when your 18 year-old daughter, against your better advice, stands by her friend of 14 years when that friend descends into the utter chaos of crystal-meth addiction and your daughter’s faithfulness and sheer willpower gets that friend into rehab.
The howling of the dog next door every afternoon at 4PM when your son begins to practice the saxophone and the pleasure you experience weeks later when the dog stops howling and you sit on the landing outside your son’s door, listening with pride to the jazz riffs he has now mastered on the sax.
The joy you feel for your son when he wins the day for his soccer team at a Thanksgiving tournament with a sudden-death shootout – he is the victorious goalie and when he blocks that last kick, the team surges onto the muddy field, engulfs him and lifts him up on their shoulders, chanting his name.
The admiration you have when you come home on a dark winter’s night from your part-time job at a bookstore and discover your daughter, in an effort to surprise you, has unpacked all the Christmas boxes and has not only decorated the house for you, but is waiting patiently by the warm fire she laid and lit, with a plate of homemade cookies and a mug of hot chocolate just for you.
The box you have in your closet, filled with the homemade cards, the abstract finger-paintings, the ceramic hand molds, the oddly-shaped clay figures, the twisted lanyards, the painted coffee mugs and plates your children made for you, and the odd dry leaves and stones and shells and twigs that meant so much to them, and which they gifted to you with their deepest pride and love.
Happy Mother’s Day to all.