Saturday, May 9, 2015

When You Want to Skip Mother's Day


Mother's Day was coming, and I was dreading it. My first holiday as a single mom, my birthday, had been excruciating, but I dreaded this day even more. Mothers and fathers are a pair, but I wasn't part of a pair anymore. I was newly alone, very single, and still trying to figure out which way was up. My children were too young to think of or buy gifts, so I feared that the day would go unrecognized and I would be miserable. I knew it would be hard. Hard had become a way of life, and holidays were a type of hard I had never experienced before. Holidays were supposed to bring joy, but all they brought were real reminders of a reality I wished weren't mine.

Mother's Day.

I wanted to skip it.

When the day came, though, it wasn't as bad as I imagined it might be, and the only reason it wasn't was my own mom. She made it better than it had to be. That's what moms do, isn't it? They make it better, whatever it is.

My mom had taken my kids a few days before, giving me some very needed relief. Unbeknownst to me, she was also making Mother's Day happen for me, her own baby. She knew just what agony I was feeling, and she knew I needed just a little relief. So she put her Mimi skills to work and helped my children make things for me. First, she posed their little arms into the letters of LOVE, framing their sweet faces for me. These pictures still hang in my kitchen.

She also had them create sweet vases of flowers that wouldn't die, their thumbprints forever captured in paint. They sit in my classroom where I see them every day.

Mother's Day is supposed to be a day when we celebrate and honor our own mothers, but for me, in 2011, Mother's Day was a day that solidified the reality of what mothers do. They forget about themselves and do whatever it takes to help their babies. Even if their babies are 31 with babies of their own. Even if they can't take the pain completely away, they do everything in their power to soothe it. Mothers work behind the scenes every day on their children's behalf, and sometimes, a mother's love is the only thing that helps.

2011? It was just what I needed.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

I Wish I Had Known They Were Lasts

I can't remember the final time I bathed either of my children.

For years, I scrubbed their tiny bodies with Johnson's, my knees screaming for mercy as I kneeled beside the tub. Night after night, I wrapped their sweet-smelling pink flesh in hooded towels and wrestled their slippery selves as I forced their toes into feety-pajamas. I slathered chunky thighs with pink lotion, combed wisps of baby-fine hair, stacked bath toys in their usual spots, and mopped up rivers of bath water cascading through the bathroom. Every night, we had our routine.

And now it's done.
My big kids bathe themselves now, and although I used to long for this day to arrive, it's bittersweet. Sure, it's nice to say, "Go take your shower" and sit on the couch while it happens, but some nights I'd give anything to watch them marvel at splashing again or to shampoo their hair myself. Sometimes, I'd love to see baby toys sitting where big-kid shampoo and loofahs now do. What I wouldn't do to wrap their warm bodies in hooded towels and snuggle them against me one more time.

Lasts are hard, but sometimes only after the fact. They're hard because we don't know that they're lasts. There was no big ceremony for the last bath I gave. There was just a gradual releasing of that task to finally-able hands. I didn't know the last diaper-change would be just that, because in the moment I seriously doubted that potty-training would ever catch on.

I had no idea as I brushed teeth for the last time that I'd never do it again, and I couldn't have imagined as I man-handled toddlers into car seats that one day they'd just buckle themselves.

Motherhood makes your soul scream, doesn't it? When the pregnancy test shows positive, you scream with excitement and wonder that you and the man you love have created a life who will walk in this world. When the hormones rage, you scream for the nausea to stop and for chocolate in any form. When the first contraction hits and you feel like you're splitting in two, your body screams for that child to just get out while your soul screams, "I don't think I'm ready yet!"

When your squishy-faced miracle breathes on his own for the first time and is cut free from your life-giving body, your soul screams in praise to the Creator of all life and your heart changes forever.

Each day after your name becomes "mom" is a soul-scream of pleasure and pain. Sleep-deprivation and feelings of inadequacy make you howl that you're just messing up, but 30 minutes later he coos as you sing and you know that you're doing it right. Every day, without fail, your mom-life is a dance of horror and wonder, and your soul screams at the amazement of both.

I know there are more lasts headed my way. The last day of elementary school is weeks away for my son, and both children put away their own laundry as it is. I rarely make lunches anymore, and they can pick out their own clothes (with relative success). Lasts are a part of this life as a mom, and my goal for today is to remember the sadness that previous lasts have wrought and treasure the moments I know will end. School dropoff lines are a pain in this moment, but I'm sure they don't compare to the pain of watching a teenager drive himself to high school. Entertaining nine-year-old boys might not be the most relaxing way to spend a Saturday, but playdates will come to an end and those boys will move away.

One day will be the last time I wash his sheets, and one night will be the last he spends in his bed at home.

Lasts will come whether we want them to or not, so in light of the sadness of future lasts, let's enjoy the now that still is.