Friday, May 17, 2013

Are You Ready for Us, Baby?

Dear Baby,

Today, I forgot to pick up your sister from school, and then I cried. On the surface, this does not bode well for you: you will be born to a mother who leaves her child stranded at school and is an emotional wreck.

You may as well know now that I am not perfect. From your warm and cozy little home, it may seem unbelievable that you could be born into a world and a family that are chaotic and flawed. Your entry into this life will certainly be a shock, and you will not be happy about it at first.

But when you arrive, and you hear my voice in the outside world, you will not care that I am not perfect. You will not care that I have eaten approximately my weight in ice cream in the last month. You will not care that I sometimes make my kids watch "Harry Potter" movies when I am too tired to play and too irritated to watch any more cartoons. You will not care that every once in a while I am "that mom" who forgets school-picture day or lets your brothers go to bed with dirty knees.

Someday you might care that I am not Donna Reed, so I think it is only fair to warn you now about what you can expect out of me as a mom. At least then I can throw this back at you in fourteen years when you wish, silently or not, that I was like the other kids' moms.

I will kill spiders, bees and centipedes in your room, but if I see a mouse, you are on your own. I love my job, so you will always be in daycare. Sometimes I just want to hang out with your dad, with no kids. I do not do crafts, but we can make as many pies as you want. I will yell at you, probably more often than I should. Our house will not always be clean, but I promise we will never end up on "Hoarders." You will try Brussels sprouts, venison, and blue cheese and all kinds of other crazy foods, when all you want to eat are chicken nuggets. We will unintentionally hurt each other's feelings, but we will also intentionally lift each other up.

Do not be afraid to join us in our imperfect world. Because what you will see in your first moments of life will be the people who love you most. It will be evident to you, every day of your life, that you are loved and wanted. Despite all of my flaws and un-Carol Brady behavior, and the grief that we will cause each other, all of that will be easily overshadowed by the wonder you will see in life and the wonder I will see in you.

If all this sounds reasonable to you, then feel free to join us at any time. We cannot promise a perfect life, but we can promise love and warm jammies and a full tummy. Come and see us when you are ready, Baby. We are ready for you to complete our wonderful, chaotic family.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Moms That Keep on Giving

A few years ago, I saw a news piece about the children of the Great Depression, and an older gentleman was talking about always being hungry. He said that he rarely saw his mother eat, and that he could not imagine how much she gave up to make sure that he was fed. He barely got the words out, and I still tear up when I think about both his mother's selflessness and his adult realization of her silent sacrifices.

As children, we do not always have a clear sense of the small and big sacrifices that our mothers make for us. Even as adults, when we start to understand the degree to which our lives shaped our parents' lives, we can never quite grasp the hundreds of ways our mothers put themselves second. Whether it is always taking the burnt piece of toast, or starving so we might eat, our moms give, and they give whether we are grateful or not.

I have been reading a lot of mommy blogs lately, for reassurance and solidarity, because I have learned that as a mom, second-guessing becomes second nature. We do not hesitate to sacrifice but we always wonder if we are doing enough. As a mom, looking at my growing circus of children, I would say that I am not doing enough to ensure that my kids are well-rounded, well-mannered, well-adjusted individuals. I obsess about the manners, knowledge, instruments, sports, languages, arts and community engagement that my kids probably will not master because I don't have the time to indulge them, and tend to forget that I am not Superwoman.

But as a daughter, looking back at my childhood and adolescence, I would say that my mother's sacrifices, both the ones I saw and the ones I did not, were not lacking. And since the best people to reassure mothers of their fine mommying are kids themselves (no matter how many times other people might say it, I always believe it more when my five-year-old identifies my good mommy skills), I want to tell my mom that all she invested is appreciated.

Sorry you had to attend so many two-hour torture sessions known as junior high band concerts.

Making me learn how to do laundry at 10 years old was really smart. I totally get it now.

I know now why I couldn't have a veil for my First Communion, and I'm sorry I was so sullen about it.

I understand now how exhausting it was for you when Dad was traveling.

You didn't fulfill your dream of Australia until this year because, among other things, you were spending precious travel money on family trips planned around my academic competitions.

Thanks for listening to me ramble on about whatever latest obsession, even though there was probably some show that you really wanted to watch instead.

You probably took the burnt piece of toast, the piece of cake with less frosting, and the butt of the loaf of bread.

I know that your heart broke every time I treated you poorly and every time I was hurting. I never quite appreciated that until my three-year-old said he didn't like me.

I don't know if you feel like a success or a failure, or if you still second-guess yourself. I don't know if you remember all the things you gave. I can't remember all of them, either, but you should know that I will take the burnt toast, go to the torturous band concerts, and listen patiently, and in that lies your success as a mother. I will do anything I can for the hearts living outside of my body, as you did for the heart living outside of yours.