It is lovely to be feted on Mother’s Day. How can you argue with being celebrated and pampered?
But really, there are only two reasons to celebrate me on Mother’s Day, and they have gotten so big, those dear boys of mine.
Even though they are more young men than baby boys these days, I was thinking back on the moments that it really struck me: I am a mother.
The birth. This is painfully obvious—and that pun is so intended. Let’s face it—this is the point when the conceptual becomes reality.
In the case of my first boy, reality arrived five weeks early at 2:49 a.m. and weighed 6 pounds, 13½ ounces. The drama came before he was born—when my water broke six weeks before his due date and I was told to hold ’im in. I felt as though I was charged with saving my son’s life even before I had seen his face.
My second boy? Totally different reality, totally different drama. Two weeks late, he was a rush hour baby, born at 8:12 p.m., only two hours after fighting the Lake Shore Drive traffic to the hospital. He was big—8 pounds, 6 ounces—I was not. It was a rough entry into the world and an extended hospital stay followed. (Apparently, being boys, they must have decided they didn’t ever want to argue about length—both were 19¾ inches long.)
But no matter the differences between the births, THE moment came for each at the same time—when I saw that beautiful amazing face, all scrunched up and blotchy.
I didn’t even care that they both looked more like Winston Churchill than either of their parents, because I was finally cradling outside the baby I had carried inside for so long. What a rush of emotion, a flood of relief and a mix of color—both of them were pure white, covered with patches of red and attached to a bright blue chord, binding us together. Even though I watched it being cut, I never really felt anyone could truly severe that tie.
The rocking chair. Our place, our time. Books were read. Life was discussed. No matter how busy we all were, time stopped when we sat down together there. After a book, or two, or three, I would ask, "Who loves the baby?" And then, I would go through the list: "Mommy loves the baby. Daddy loves the baby. Grandmom loves the baby. Aunt NeeNee loves the baby ... "
Next, I would say, "And how much do I love the baby? Do I love you this much?" And I would hold my hands out one inch apart. "No way! Do I love you this much?" And the hands would separate a little more. "No way!" The pattern would repeat until my hands were as far behind me as each could go and each of my dear boys was smiling and shaking his head as I was saying, "No way! Mommy, can never say how much she loves her baby—it’s soooo much." And then I would hear, "Again." Some nights, we would just get lost in our own world.
The first moment of truth. "Mom," my 3-year-old boy asked me at breakfast, "What is odd?"
"Well, it means just different," I answered, my brain racing and wondering where this had come from and where it was going so I could be prepared.
"Oh, that’s what Ms. Gina told me, too."
"Well, Dear, your teacher was right."
"Mom, am I odd?" my sweet little bespectacled boy asked. What could I say? He was and is odd. That is his beauty, his magnificence. In a cookie-cutter world where too many try to conform to what they think everyone wants them to be, my boy has always been his own young man.
But, I wondered, do I say that now? Should I lie to my son? I was already treading the line with the Santa Claus thing, but this was something else. How could he trust me if I didn’t tell him the truth?
"Yes, Dear, you are. But that is what makes you so special and wonderful. You are different. Did someone call you odd in school, Dear?"
"Thomas did at playtime. He said, ‘You are odd.’ "
"Well, what did you say to Thomas?"
"I said, ‘Thomas, I think you are odd, too.’ "
"Well, my dear, I think you handled that quite nicely—one compliment always deserves another."
Losing your tail. It wasn’t the first haircut that caught me in tears. He called it a rat tail, I called it my one chance to experience what it would be like to have a little girl and fix her hair. I would never trade my boys, but it was fun braiding that foot-long tail into a tight braid.
He started growing it when he was 2 and was definite about keeping it. I told him: "Your hair, your choice." Not everyone always felt that way. My sister even chased him around her kitchen with scissors. But then one day, he said, "I’m cutting it off, Mom." I felt as though a part of my heart was being cut out.
My baby boys are growing up. These days, I remember too clearly what it was like when they were my baby boys—but do they?
The other night, I was feeling a bit blue and a bit overwhelmed, and my now 6-foot, 2-inch tall firstborn baby looked at me and said, "How much do we love the mommy? Do I love you this much?"