It’s hard to imagine now, but before the birth of my first child, I had never held a baby. Not once, not in my entire life. No baby at home to tend, no niece or nephew to babysit. So you can imagine, the day my first boy was born I felt woefully unprepared.
My mother took pity on me and stayed for two weeks, but that wasn’t nearly enough time. As she was preparing to leave, I cried like I was the baby. I told her that I wasn’t ready, that I had no idea what to do. In her smile I saw the truth. Ready or not, my son couldn’t wait, and somehow, I would make it through.
Of course, she was right. Some might say it was the mothering gene kicking in, the same one that every mom throughout history has possessed. Maybe. But I don’t think so. I was a good mom because my own mom was the best.
I suppose my mother was somewhat unusual for her time. At 30 she was — and expected she always would be — a career woman. She worked as a cosmetics rep and was happy in that job. She never expected to get married, but then she found the one man in all the world who could change her mind — my dad.
The same passion she had for her work she poured into being a mother. I never lacked for confidence or a sense of self-worth. How could I when my mom seemed to think I had hung the moon? People would tell her, as people are wont to do with little girls, that she had a beautiful daughter. “If only you knew,” she would say, “how much more beautiful she is on the inside.”
Ringleader and troublemaker
Such words gave me my place in the world. She let me be who I was, which meant playing baseball and football with the boys, and catching frogs and hunting for snakes out behind the house. I think the thing she loved the most was that I was always the ringleader, always more likely to get others into trouble than to follow along.
Growing up as her daughter is what prepared me to be a mother myself. So began a different phase of my life. People often ask me what it was like to raise five boys. I won’t sugarcoat it. There were times I wanted to tear my hair out. I can remember visiting my friends’ houses, seeing their daughters’ manners, the way they helped with the chores. Then I would return home to my boys, hoping only that my house was still intact.
Still, those were wonderful times. My boys had a way of putting their emotions and their disputes on the table. And more important, they had a way of leaving them there, of walking away without worrying about the things that might distance them, or letting hard feelings fester and grow. That directness and forgiveness shaped me into who I am today.
I’m a grandmother now. In fact, the gift I received this Mother’s Day is two more wonderful grandchildren, twins, bringing the total to 18.
As every grandparent knows, it’s a different role than being a mother or a daughter. I am able to adore the grandchildren, and to smile as my children go through the same struggles I went through when they were young. I’ve lived through three seasons of motherhood, and I have seen the beauty in each.
A tradition of lilacs
On Mother’s Day, Mitt always brings me lilacs, a tradition he started the year I became a mother. When our home is filled with their fragrance, it reminds me of so many things, and stirs so many emotions. I think of my five sons and the women they married, whom I love as if I had raised them. They have become my daughters.
And I think about my mother. I remember she was a wonderful cook. I remember how much she loved my dad. Ours was a loving home, where I knew the light was always on. I wish I could tell her again how much I love her. The most trying time of my life was when I became the mother who had to take care of her as she was suffering in the last stages of ovarian cancer. The hardest thing for us all, I think, is the day we lose our moms.
Crown of glory
Cherish your mothers. The ones who wiped your tears, who were at every ball game or ballet recital. The ones who believed in you, even when nobody else did, even when maybe you didn’t believe in yourself.
Women wear many hats in their lives. Daughter, sister, student, breadwinner. But no matter where we are or what we’re doing, one hat that moms never take off is the crown of motherhood.
There is no crown more glorious.