Originally posted May 9, 2009
I became a mother over a decade ago. A few blunders and lessons later I've come to some startling conclusions, which I've written about over the years and dusted off to share again in honor of Mother's Day.
For starters, I learned early on that bringing Happy Meals to the playground apparently breaks the 'sisterhood of mothers' code. Who knew?
Another tip? Don't let your six-year-old daughter take orders for more boxes of Girl Scout cookies than you're willing to deliver by yourself, after she poops out and announces "I don't wanna go. You do it Mommy, I'm staying home." You won't look so hot in that brown vest the Brownies are required to wear, anyhow.
Don't win at Battleship unless you can stand to see your kid sulk for hours. Oh, and don't lose either, or you'll be accused of throwing the game to make him feel better.
Trying to lull the kids to sleep at bedtime? Don't crack jokes. Even really good ones. And once they finally do close their eyes, don't pop the popcorn until you're positive they're really down for the count - unless you're willing to share.
When checking your kid's math homework, don't get the answer wrong and then make your kid crazy turning himself inside-out trying to figure out the answer that works in your sick, mathematically-challenged little world - especially if he got it right in the first place.
Another thing I've learned since becoming a mom? Our kids are gonna dish-out more "I hate you" 's than "I love you" 's, so we'd better soak up affirmations when they do appear - even if they're issued from unexpected sources, like the angel disguised as the dairy guy at the grocery store. "You're awesome," my dairy-angel said after I had Noah crunch the numbers and decide whether it made more sense for us to buy string cheese by the package or individually. Truth is, I was having trouble quickly multiplying on my own (yeah, big shocker), but I'll take my compliments any way I can get 'em.
"Mom," Noah said recently, "you put your shirt on backwards, and inside out. You're crazy and dysfunctional, but in a good way," he added, lucky for him. I've decided that's a compliment, too.
Before he caught on, Noah called me a superstar. He was five, and I'd reached the 'superstar' level of the on-line version of Wheel of Fortune. Those were the days.
I think all moms are superstars, even in our less stellar moments, because we're there for our kids. Here's to you, sister. When they were small we could recite every word of their favorite books, knew just how to rock them to sleep and didn't mind the dampness on our shirts from our babies' breath. We still pause to drop pebbles into puddles, can turn a meltdown around on a dime and, when we're at our best, are keepers of wonder for our children. We help them with their homework, make sure they brush their teeth, and show up to cheer until long after our throats hurt, the sun sets and our backsides ache from the bleachers.
We've learned that one-size-fits-all approaches to parenting often miss the mark, and that sometimes all we can do is just grab our kids and pull them close for a quick squeeze and an "I love you, I'm proud of you." We're not fooled by their squirms and scowls. It matters and they hear us, even if they don't want to let on.
We're willing to make the difficult, sometimes unpopular decisions, and in those tough moments when our most important job feels like a thankless one, we bear in mind that 'this too shall pass.' But not too quickly, please, because way too soon there will come a day when our little boys with their endearing rat's nest hair won't be home to plead for a later bedtime and our precious daughters won't be around to make our heads spin by shouting demands down the stairs one minute and sneaking up on us for snuggles the next.
Ah, there's the rub.
Being a mom is hard work, so take care of you, okay? I recall being so sleepy from Holly's feedings that I accidentally brushed my teeth with Desitin. That's hitting bottom, if you will. Don't blow off "me" time like I sometimes did or you just might find yourself with a mouth full of butt paste to show for it.
A mom's life is full of surprises, and opportunities to learn some really nifty stuff. Have you ever considered why maggots stop wiggling when they're used as ice-fishing bait? And can you pick up and kiss a bullfrog without getting peed on (it's all in the wrist)? Speaking of pee, do you know how to get a 100-pound sleepwalker to pee into the potty without missing his target?
Motherhood certainly isn't for sissies - or fashion snobs.
Have you heard the word that you really can pair red and white striped leggings with a tie-dyed shirt and a fuchsia scarf worn as a belt over a cheetah-print skirt after Labor Day (soccer shin-guards optional)? I used to make comments like "And Holly picked out her own outfit today," to friends I worried would wonder. Eventually I got over myself and shut up.
Parenting is quite an education.
Thanks to my kids' queries, I now know how cheese wheels are formed, and can tell the difference between chemtrails and contrails, but my favorite lesson of all? When he was two, Noah taught me how to make "twinkle soup" in our muddy sandbox. Who needs Happy Meals, anyway?
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.