Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mothers and Children

Some of my best blog ideas come from Facebook.  I have wonderful friends that I keep up with regularly courtesy of the amazing technology we all share these days.  One of my friends posted, in honor of mother's day, how she felt the need to give her children a present for how they have impacted her life.  My first reaction was, "My kids get way too many presents as it is!"  But as I thought about the sentiment, I had several things run through my mind.

First, my children happened upon me accidentally, and I upon them.  Born to another woman, my husband's relative, none of us could have ever imagined that our stars would one day collide.  My husband and I had a long term relationship for a few years before he moved to be closer to me and we eventually married.  We both wanted a child, and I had very firm ideas about how that plan was going to go.  I was going to marry at twenty-five, have one child--preferably a girl--at thirty, and continue in my happy little life, raising my daughter and spoiling her rotten.  She would occasionally challenge me, but because she would be so reasonable, a quick time-out (clearing my throat) would take care of that.  She would always love me and wrap her chubby little arms around my neck.  We would be the best of friends, and she would be beautiful and successful and amazing.  

I've never quite given up on this fantasy, despite the fact that I am in my early forties and would be a high risk pregnancy.  As I've grown older, there are aspects of mothering that I feel I missed out on--particularly pregnancy and having an infant around.  But I also know myself well enough to know that having an infant now would be incredibly hard.  And I have two other children who need me.

We tend to think, as parents, that as children grow older they need us less.  This has not been my experience.  Although my son, at fourteen, has formed his own friendships and even dates occasionally, he still needs the approval and love of his mom.  My daughter is twelve and still asks for us to spend a day together, just the two of us, from time to time.  I'm not naive enough to believe she will always put me first (in fact, there have already been several times she's chosen hanging with friends over doing something special with me), but when it comes down to it, I know that my love and acceptance is critical to her self-esteem.  And I think she's pretty awesome.  Both of my kids are wonderful people, and I love them with my whole heart.

When I first became a mom, I had very little time to prepare.  There wasn't any nine month gestational period.  There were no baby showers, no extended family to help so I could catch up on sleep or run errands.  But somehow we made it work.

I can honestly say that my kids have been two of my greatest teachers in life.  I have learned more from my experiences with them than through any other experience I've ever had.  I've learned that I have limits I didn't know I had, and that I have the capacity to give far more than I thought I did.  And I've learned that I can love in a way I never imagined or thought possible.

My facebook friend was adopted as an infant, and it's ironic that I find myself in the position her parents were in, and she in the position my children are.  I'm sure she gave up any doubts long ago about her parents' love and adoration, but I would like to say this to her, and to all people who grew up in less than traditional households:  Almost all parents love their children unconditionally.  I did not welcome these children into my life because I thought I was some sort of incredible mother.  I took care of two children who needed love, caring, and nurturing at that moment.  True mothers aren't defined by their ability to give birth, buy presents, or sharing genetic links.  True motherhood is defined by the willingness to put another person's needs in front of your own, to meet the needs of another person's over your own, to risk heartbreak for the chance of giving a child happiness.  Every child deserves those experiences, and when a mother is able to give those to her child, her rewards are multiplied a thousand times over.

My children are loved, as are my facebook friend's children.  We both are blessed by these ever-changing young people, and neither of us would have it any other way.  Mothering is a gift in itself, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have these two children who bless my world in so many ways.  And to my friend--I know her parents felt the same.  It was in the way they looked at her, the way they tried their best to parent her, the way they loved her.  Lucky, we are, to be children.  And lucky, so lucky, to be mothers.

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