“Behind all your stories is your Mother’s story because hers is where yours begin.” ~ Mitch Albom
Yesterday, my younger kiddo turned 18, joining her 24-year-old brother in the make-believe utopia that’s disguised as the crushing reality of adulthood.
My journey through motherhood has not been an easy one, due to the many challenges my kiddos and I faced ~ individually and collectively. For the last 24.5 years, I’ve been a single mother…and not by choice. Sadly, I didn’t receive much in the way of support when it came to raising my children, but I felt determined to raise them as best I could, with or without help.
I was a day shy of 28 when my son was born and, as soon as I held him for the first time, I understood everything my mother ever did for me. That instantaneous realization hit me like a ton of bricks; my respect for my mother rose by a gazillion points in a single moment.
Fast forward 6’ish years to when my daughter was born, I was 34 and noticed a distinct difference in my energy levels. I remember feeling way more exhausted during the first years of her life and thinking what a difference 6 years made. Another big revelation for me ~ having a second child was not easier because I’d been through it before. How foolish of me! The “previous experience with a baby” means N-O-T-H-I-N-G!! It’s an extremely humbling thing to realize that what might have worked the first time was probably just a fluke and that babies are different to keep us guessing. And don’t even get me started on the time spent refereeing arguments.
Motherhood surely tests those maternal instincts, our patience, ability to cope with random shit that pops up, our anger management, ability to problem-solve, among other things. While I was teaching my children how to do things for themselves and, also, be the best versions of themselves, they were teaching me things, too.
I learned a lot about what children really need and material possessions don’t even come into it. My children needed my unwavering presence in their daily lives…and they got it. They needed the security of walking into a school assembly and seeing my beaming face in a crowd, cheering them on…and they got it. They needed someone with a goofy sense of humor to make them laugh until their stomachs hurt…and they got it. They needed to know that I was always there for them even when they needed their own space…and they got it. They needed me to be present both mentally and physically when they got home from school…and they got it. They needed to know that they were completely safe with me, knowing that they would never be called names, insulted or criticized…and they got it. They needed someone who always told them what they needed to hear and not what they wanted to hear…and they got it. They needed to see that I’m human, that I make my share of mistakes, and that I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong or say “I’m sorry”…and they got it. They needed someone who isn’t afraid to say “I love you”…and they got it.
Every mom has her most and least favorite ages in the lives of her children. Each age brings its own challenges to the table while earlier challenges fade to distant memory. Goodness knows I have very strong opinions about all the ages/phases my kiddos have gone through, some being better than others. How I feel about those challenging phases doesn’t matter so much anymore, apart from the fact that we all survived them. What I wasn’t ready for was the way I feel about my daughter turning 18. My role in her life gradually put me further into the background as she edged closer to her adulthood. Because of her father’s death in her early teens, she had to grow up faster than the average kid her age. Her father’s and my differing parenting methods led to an extreme battle of wills over her independence. Once certain kids reach a certain age, we parents have to grit our teeth, take a step back, and let them find their way, mistakes and all.
When the youngest kiddo in the family reaches adulthood there’s a period of transition that follows in which we take stock of our lives, amid the bittersweet memories of our kiddos in their infancy, school years and milestones. We celebrate our survival through all the rough spots. We hope and pray that God keeps our kiddos safe as they navigate through life as adults with responsibility. We reflect on how being parents made us stronger, wiser, shock-proof, and expert bullshit detectors. We vaguely remember our “pre-kiddo” life, hoping to return to it and renewing our interests, hobbies, and projects that fell by the wayside when we were too busy being parents.
half jokingly tell our kiddos that they’ll wish they listened our advice and sage, experience-based wisdom. My daughter just smiles. ‘You’re going to say “I told you so”, aren’t you?’ she asks. I feign innocence. ‘Who? Me? No.’ I pause and add, ‘I’m stocking up on popcorn, as we speak.’
It’s bound to be quite a show. *giggle*
Until next time…