When my oldest was born over nineteen years ago, I realized that I was embarking on a great unknown adventure. Having lost my mother at a young age, I had very little experience to draw from. How am I supposed to know how to be a mom when I had one for so little time? What does that look like?
How do I Mom?
I’m still figuring it out. But I’m going to tell you the secret that I have learned so far:
I know. Profound, right?
Here’s the beauty that I have found in having the privilege to raise these amazing humans: I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to know all the answers. I don’t have to have the right reactions to situations beyond my control. I don’t have to be strong (all the time). I can be vulnerable and messy (because life is) and I can admit when I’m wrong or when I don’t know what I am doing. Because they don’t care if I’m human and imperfect, they just need me.
The child who needed OT, PT and speech and was unsure and frightened of everything. The child who had trouble making friends throughout middle school. The one who needed me to advocate for him because he had been accused of plagiarism (“Mom, I didn’t know you could yell at a teacher like that”). The kid that was hit by a car on his bike and had a concussion headache for almost two months after. The mean kids, the hard days at school, the challenging coaches that I’m told all about.
All situations in which I did not know what the hell I was doing.
But I showed up.
The one who wears his heart on his sleeve and sometimes has a hard time navigating school and relationships because boys aren’t supposed to be sensitive. The kid who is anxious and needs constant reassurance (CONSTANT reassurance). The late nights wondering when a certain kid would come home because it’s past curfew and you’re pretty sure he isn’t where he said he was. The late night conversations about life at school, politics, world events, and sometimes girls. When I’d rather chill out after a long day and watch Grey’s Anatomy, I’m sitting in the kitchen talking about college options.
I take them to doctor and therapy appointments and sit in hospital waiting rooms more often than I would like. I see the other moms there with me. They show up too. Because this is what we do.
We show up.
After mountains of paperwork and hours of training I had the privilege to bring home this boy. The boy I met in China two years ago who wanted nothing to do with me because I was a stranger. He now calls me Mom and draws me pictures. This summer I’ll meet a girl in China who has Down syndrome when I have no idea how to parent a child with special needs. Both children are completely outside of my comfort zone and experience. So I just come as I am and learn as I go. Because that is all they need (and all that I can do).
I show up.
Recently, my nine year old dislocated and fractured his elbow at an open gym. The Friday night I thought would be quiet (with him out of the house) turned into a long night in the ER. I had to look at his scared, tear-stained face in the ambulance and reassure him that he would be just fine. I had to keep him calm while trying not to notice how bad his arm looked or the sound it made as they put it back into place (at least he was sedated for that). I knew I had to remain calm and reassuring regardless of what my brain was screaming in my head. Because that is what you do when you Mom.
Being a Mom is the HARDEST job ever. But it is also THE BEST job ever. I am blessed to have these amazing children in my life. Blessed to be sharing it with my husband of twenty-two years, good friends and family who also show up and support and love me and my family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I am not alone. I am surrounded by moms who show up just like me. Who are there when times get tough, in the doctor’s offices, at the one hundred millionth music program and at the parent teacher conferences. I see you at the school functions, the swim meets that last for hours, the playground and at the store when your kid is melting down. You show up, and do your best. That is all any of us can do.
This is how I Mom.