I see you over there. It’s summer break and your kids are all home. You burned through your list of summer activities in four days and now you’re lying to your kids – saying it’s going to rain so you don’t have to squeeze back into that swimsuit. You throw together another round of PBJ’s and dino nuggets on paper plates. Don’t worry, those apple slices, TOTALLY healthy. Mom win all the way!
You pick those paper plates up off the table and head to the trash, stopping for a quick second to finish off those three half-eaten dino nuggets and the two crusts of PBJ’s. All of this after your two handfuls of frosted flakes and a Diet Coke you ate for breakfast. You hang your head as you walk into the living room to threaten your arguing kids for the sixth time today.
We manage to take decent care of our kids. They’re all still alive, right? They’re all still healthy enough to argue back every time you open your mouth and repetitively tell you they’re bored, aren’t they? Relax momma, you’re doing alright. So why are you completely neglecting yourself? Three of your toes have a tiny blue arc of leftover polish, your hair needed dyed four weeks ago and cut four months ago. Your legs need shaven and you haven’t seen a dentist since your little nugget eaters were still crawling on all fours. That one tooth aches but not bad enough to make you do anything about it.
You hear it all the time…. you must take care of yourself first. It’s the reason you must put your oxygen mask on first before helping other people on a plane. You’re not much help to others if you’re gasping for air. It’s great in thought, it makes sense. It’s just easier said than done. We’re moms. We’re not programmed to take care of ourselves first. We give our best and often our all to our families. After that we dole some out for work and don’t forget dinner and the house. When the evening rolls around, I’m on empty. On the rare occasion that I have anything left after the kids are in bed, I don’t want to paint my toenails. I want to fill our big, plastic Shrek bowl full of Cookies & Cream ice cream and watch Wicked Tuna on National Geographic with my husband. That’s what feels important. Eventually an event will come along, a wedding or the like. You’ll be forced to cut and dye your hair. You’ll have to shave your legs and paint your toenails. But the dentist is just going to have to wait. Enjoy the heck out of that reception dinner while you’re out. It’s back to half-eaten dino nuggets and PBJ crusts tomorrow. It’s the #momlife
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a mom. I married too young, married too wrong, got pregnant too quickly – all to fill this child-sized hole in my heart. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I’m sure I did everything wrong for weeks – probably years, probably still. Somehow, we survived. You had colic and cried constantly. I spent more time in your room than mine. We sat for hours on the floor just beside your crib rocking back and forth, crying together. I slept when you slept, ate when you ate, cried when you cried. You had my whole heart, all of my time and more of my love than I knew I had to give.
You were walking, talking and growing before I knew it. Nothing could stop you. As your vocabulary grew, your personality began to emerge. You were an old soul. You spoke in complete sentences and carried on conversations easily with adults everywhere we went. You never met a stranger. I wouldn’t let you out of my sight. At three you became a big brother. You protected your new sister fiercely and the two of you became fast friends. We were the three musketeers, us against the world!
You were the youngest and smallest all through elementary school. Straight A’s every report card. Your teachers loved you, though none more than I. Your personality was ten times your size. You were big and loud and discovered how far being funny could take you. I discovered how very much alike we were. Dad always jokes we’re the same person. We finished each other’s jokes, made up our own and spent countless hours laughing until we cried.
Adolescence brought a different feel to our relationship. Dad deployed again and you were already struggling with severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I remember the moment we admitted there was something wrong. I found the best psychologist around. She told me it was much worse than I had thought. It broke my heart. What could have broken our special bond only strengthened it. I held you on your bedroom floor again while we both cried. I drove you to every therapy appointment and read every book I could get my hands on. When you told me you needed the medication, you sat on my lap at the doctor’s office as we told her in tears that it was time. We dealt with every ritual, every issue, everything together.
Years went by and you were a teenager. How was it even possible? You’d overcome the worst of your OCD and had slowly weaned off the medication. You found your true love, the theatre and naturally landed the lead in the first role you ever auditioned for. You always succeeded immediately at everything you did. I worried what would happen the first time you didn’t. Our relationship has changed a lot. You spend a lot of time in your room and with friends. We don’t talk and joke for hours anymore. I miss it. I miss you. I know I must let go (just a little). Dad tells me that every day. I don’t want to. I look for every opportunity to spend time with you, to help you with anything you might need me for. A simple trip to Target becomes so much more when you come with me. I watch you on stage. Every performance of every show, I’m there. Row 6, center section, right hand side. I love seeing you up there. You’re amazing. My heart grows with so much pride when you light up performing for everyone.
I’m not sure where we go from here. I’m scared and a little sad. I miss our jokes and our talks and you sitting on my lap. I know you love me. There are moments when I see my little son in your eyes. Times when you’re upset and sad. When you come in my room and lay on the side of my bed while we talk about nothing in particular. Watching you grow was my favorite thing when you were small but now with every day you’re closer and closer to graduation and moving on. I don’t know how to let you do that…not that I really have a choice. I love you, son. You made me a mom. You made me the person I’d always wanted to be. I thank God every day for giving you to me.