Everyone is paying tribute to moms everywhere today, but I would simply like to pay a quick tribute to each of the reasons I am a mom. They are two little boogers, two total pains in the butt, two reasons I feel ready to drop into Rip Van Winkle sleep at the end of every day. When I am at my worst, they say, "Ugh, Mom, you are the WORST mom ever." When I look my worst, they say, "Ugh, Mom, did you WANT to look like that?" Sometimes Joey will try to smooth it over, realizing too late that, you know, I have feelings or whatever, and will say, "I just love those splotches on your face when you're mad," or, "It's so super great how you make your hair stick up all over." But not Noah. He loves to make everything REALLY clear. "No, Joey. She looks TERRIBLE. I hope she doesn't look like that tomorrow."
They always encourage me to keep going, to never give up. When I make three different breakfasts for one kid, or cut a peanut butter sandwich into a dinosaur shape and it was supposed to be in triangles what's wrong with me, they always let me know I get another chance. Noah's especially firm about this. "Make it again. Just do it, okay? I know you can. I believe in you." Oh, well, as long as you say it that way. I was planning on eating T-Rex peanut butter for lunch, anyway.
They have taught me to expect the unexpected, to roll with punches. Just when everything is under control, I might find poop smeared on a wall. I might think at first that it's chocolate, and touch it with my bare finger, and then realize too late what I've done. I might be in the middle of Target and have my little boy scream at the top of his lungs, "MY PENIS! MY PENIS IS KILLING ME! YOU HAVE TO FIX IT!" Or, my personal favorite, "You are NOT my Mommy. GET AWAY FROM THIS CART." Yeah, that one's always nice.
They have taught me to be unselfish--a particularly big challenge for me since I'm awesome. But I'm going to tell you, when your baby is vomiting, you just stop caring about you. When your baby is shaking with fear, sweating with fever, or crying real, snowball-sized tears over a bad dream where YOU died, you'll go another mile. Or ten, or a thousand. Whatever it takes to make it better. And when you can't fix it, a small thing plants itself inside your heart and hurts for awhile. Because they believed you could make it better, and you just couldn't.
Most of all, they have made sure I understand the meaning of the word "unconditional." It used to be a thing for me, when I was a teenager, that I was searching for a person who'd love me unconditionally. That special soul mate for life who would just "get" me, and accept me for "who I really am." I've definitely found my soul mate, but one thing about marriage is that you can't just be who you really are all the time. You have to make sacrifices and changes and go out of your way to make sure someone else can live with you--and that's not easy. But there is one person who DOES love me unconditionally--no matter what I do. Although it really helps if I kiss her a hundred times in a row and say in a sappy voice, "I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you." And for good measure, I have to add, even now that I'm thirty-two,"You're the best mommy ever."
I have learned in my life that while sacrifices and concessions must be made to help a marriage function successfully, there is a limit to how much another person can ask of you. That after a point, they SHOULD like who you are and want to be with the real you. But with your children? There is no limit. I will give them every bit of me, every last bit if that is what I believe they need, and I will love them in the face of the very worst they could ever do or be. The hardest part of my job will be helping them learn that the rest of the world will NOT be as unconditional as I am, because my love will never have the infallible super powers to protect them that they believe in right now.
But I'll tell you something. When I am at my worst--those days when Joey and Noah remark on my appearance or my mood with chagrin, disdain, or disgust--I know who to call. I know who can get through to me and make me better. And if I can be half that mom for my boys, I will have been more than I could hope to be.
Happy Mother's Day!