When I think about parenting and motherhood, it conjures images of young families and the frenetic joy and chaos that come with raising young kids. There is the side of parenting that makes me laugh and smile until my heart overflows with love, that exists with the other side of parenting that at times leaves me half-paralyzed by fear and insecurity. How do I keep them safe, especially when they start to test their wings and learn to fly? Where are my answers to the ever-evolving parenting questions when the issues (and the stakes) seem to get so much higher with each passing year? How do I stop time, because it is slipping away … as I know it must?
I am a worrier by nature. When my daughter was four, giggling and twirling in circles wearing her princess dress trying to make herself dizzy, I was smiling at the same time that I was rushing to push the coffee table out of the way so that she wouldn’t bang her head on the corner when she inevitably would fall down in a pink, gauzy heap. When my son at age two decided that he was too big for the toddler play equipment and instead wanted to follow his sister on the big-kid playground, I let him test that independence, and run through the obstacles with his stuffed Elmo in hand, at the same time that I followed right next to him ready to play catch-the-toddler should he fall off. If there was a way to mitigate a risk, I searched it out with the single-minded, not-always-rational, determination of a mother bear trying to protect her cubs.
The process of watching my kids grow and hit new milestones, especially those that marked another step toward independence, left me smiling with pride at the same time that I fought against my internal fears and instinct to pull them back. As all parents do through their journey, I had to learn that I could not protect them from everything. That not every one of my child’s problems was mine to solve. That there are lessons in life that can only be learned through the try-and-fail-and-try-again experience of living.
That they are ready to move forward to the next phase in life, even if I am not.
So what makes it all okay? My kids. My college-age daughter who flew home to make omelettes with her mom on Mother’s Day morning. My son, who now is four inches taller than I am, cuddling up to me in the same way that he did when he was five. My husband and me watching from the warmth of our house as our almost-grown kids bounced outside under huge golf umbrellas in the rain yesterday, in much the same way they did when they were little with ladybug and puppy munchkin-sized umbrellas. The knowledge that although our family has moved from AYSO and parent-teacher conferences to high school track meets and college finals, we still are one family. We are connected by love, and memories, and friendship.
My mom has reminded me more than once (admittedly, usually in the context of “you don’t call often enough”) that she thinks about my brother and me every day. Rather than blow it off, more recently I have started to think about what that really means. I think it is this. While times will continue change, our kids will continue to grow in their independence, and new people will enter our family picture, I will always be their Mom. And she will always be mine.
And a Mom's love trumps everything … including the passage of time.