Sunday, May 10, 2015

I am a mother…

(The following is not exhaustive, simply what came to mind suddenly a few minutes ago.)

Now that’s a short, uncomplicated sentence, after all two of the words are only one letter.

It’s the concept that isn’t quite as simple: what makes me a mother?

Physically it is the biological fact of giving birth to my two sons: I was one of the lucky ones and thought 10 minutes was tough the first time around: I wanted to “stop and finish tomorrow” obviously that wasn’t happening, but it was in retrospect not difficult; the second one was 20 minutes of hard labor – I knew that I had no choice though and got on with it.  Both boys were born on a Saturday night (within an hour of each other though not the same day, time of year nor even close in month or year) and my labor didn’t begin until
mid morning one time and early afternoon the other. I slept well the night before; I slept well the night after.

That was perhaps however the easiest part of being a mother.

All these years later as I reflect it isn’t simple at all: being a mother meant

  • A lack of sleep (still does but for other reasons);
  • Being a mother meant being responsible for that tiny human being that couldn’t feed itself or do anything to protect itself – the dependency would scare anyone, new mothers seem to take it in their stride unless a hormonal imbalance causes depression;
  • Being a mother meant listening (I found that one of the hardest parts of being a mother to a teenager was that they were going to need 10 minutes of your time at some point in the day and it was usually when you were dead tired or at your least available – like midnight);
  • Being a mother meant encouraging – that first step, the reading of those first letters, words, sentences, whole books (we were avid fans of the English-speaking library but as they attended public school in French we also obtained in due time cards to the local library as well), the “yes-you-can” take a test, apply for a driving license, get over the break-up – being encouraging also meant simply stepping back and letting it happen: experience if often the best teacher
  • Being a mother meant all those roles and titles that often appear in the classic texts, jokes or other writings concerning the subject: cook, laundry-woman, chauffeur, teacher, house-keeper (except those teenage rooms – more than happy to let those be off limits!), ironing, bank – a list that is by no means exhaustive
  • Being a mother meant worry, not only worry as to where they were and what they were doing, but also the worry of “am I doing enough”? “am I doing it right” “where did I make a mistake”?

But being a mother also means:

  • The pleasure of the first smile, the first word (for some reason to entertain ourselves one Sunday the older son and I made a list of all the words his not-quite-two-year-old brother knew – I still have the list!), the first step.
  • The joy of seeing them learn something knew – a continual process although perhaps no longer quite as much of a surprise.
  • The privilege of seeing them develop their own personalities, their own strengths (ok those odd genetic weaknesses of manners or character are to be ignored)
  • The wonder of seeing someone that tiny and dependent become self-sufficient and even eventually capable of caring for the parent in a never ending cycle of life
  • The fun of challenging them (and ones self) to see or learn something new, to explore that off-the-road trail, to read that odd book, to interact with a culture or age that is far from one’s own
  • The outright happiness of seeing them reach their potential as good people, productive members of society or goals that they have set themselves.
  • The satisfaction of knowing that like those ancestors you never knew, they would perhaps continue the line of humanity, perhaps even making it a little bit better in their own way.

One thing is for sure: being a mother doesn’t stop from the time it starts until one is no longer alive. It’s a wild ride, but oh the joy and beauty of that phrase for me:

I am a mother!

My 65th birthday