Monday, May 5, 2014

Mother’s Day, Year, Decade(s)

Finally May! It seemed as if winter would go on forever. Like the song in the musical Carousel, “March went out like a lion…April cried and stepped aside. Along came pretty little May….”

May is one of my favorite months. There’s my birthday and Mother’s Day – which I celebrate now just as heartily as when my kids were home. I’m sure you’ve heard  – once a mother, always a mother – but as a mother of adults, I’ll say you don’t really get what that means ‘til your kids are taller and (I’ll admit in rare instances) smarter than you are.

Now that my kids are “launched”, my favorite advice to new parents is to enjoy every stage of motherhood to the fullest. I remember as a new parent how I “couldn’t wait” for my baby to do the next big thing -- to smile, to sit up, to walk, to make his own meals (and ultimately money). There’s reason to celebrate each stage with gusto – it means we’ve passed another of the endless mom tests.

Try not to rush the kid stages. It’s not a competition – there’s really no correlation between early walkers and class valedictorians. Just enjoy the many wonderful experiences along your child’s way. And if my romantic view of it doesn’t persuade, just consider that learning to crawl is a fun milestone, but now you have a diapered force of destruction on the loose in your home.

At each stage of development, I so enjoyed my kids’ increasingly sophisticated interest in their world. My middle daughter was a tireless digger for detail. She was fiercely independent. Her first sentence was, “Me do it own self.”  She would follow me around and tirelessly ask, “Why?” 

A typical morning during her third year would start with me saying: “Let’s put some clothes in the washer.”  She would say, “Why?” and I would answer, “Because they are dirty.”  Again, “Why?”  I would answer, “Because we want them to look nice. Let’s put soap in.”  Another, “Why?”  and I would answer, “Because the soap will get the dirt out.”  Her response? Yup, “Why?” 

These conversations were endless with her – just substitute whatever topic was at hand and generously pepper with “why’s.” When I first became a parent, I vowed never to say, “Because I told you so.” I have to admit I used that parental classic more than once in the face of the terminal “why’s.”

I’m a huge believer in being prepared  - which significantly informed my approach to parenting. I’ll tell you now however, that the parenting experience from infant to adult has been an endless source of surprise to me. I studied piles of books. I went to all the classes we could afford, took my husband to as many classes as he would tolerate. I talked to my mom and did compare and contrast analyses of the young mothers around me.

But like so many of us “boy scout” new parents, when my first baby arrived, what I knew for sure was my idea of prepared was a fantasy. I was at a loss to recall ANY of the diligent research I’d done, and from the moment of delivery, too tired to pick up a book.

As parents, we’re on a bit of an intelligence roller coaster in the eyes of our kids.  We’re brilliant right up to when they hit double digits, we couldn’t be less relevant when they become teens, and then we gain back some influence as our kids hit adulthood. At the moment I went home with babe in arms, my mother became a genius in my eyes. I thought about how she had given me tons of advice throughout my life (often against my will), and it hit me: “Mom was right.”

I was a very independent child (still am), but nonetheless, I was on the phone asking mom how quickly she could come over and help me even before I had cut off that hospital bracelet. Pregnant me had told her it was not necessary for her to come, but new mom me could not wait for her to arrive.

I thought I could do it all just like I tackled so many challenges before. But this was a challenge who owned me from her first breath. I was not ashamed to ask for much needed help. This little person was in control, and I knew even then that my life would never be the same. Never.

On this Mother’s Day, be sure to remember your mom and all she did/does for you –share your undefinable, unimaginable motherhood experiences. And remember whatever kid stage you are in, it’s the best one. It will pass (sadly/gladly), and you’ll be so happy you appreciated it.  

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