I didn't become a mother in the traditional way. I became a mom through somebody else's tragedy, through two children's trauma. I became a mother because a judge deemed it to be in the best interest of two children.
When my son was still very young and referred to me by my first name, I explained it to him this way: that he would always have his momma, but I was there to do the "momma job" until his mother was able to do it.
That was ten years ago.
Being a mother isn't as natural as books make it out to be. Even literature I read about children who have come from traumatic circumstances end up being happy and well-adjusted. The truth is that this mothering thing is something that a lot of us grow into. In my case, one day I had no children, and the next day I had two. And the happy ending part? I don't know about that. All I know is that we try and rejoice in the good times and learn from our mistakes.
These children didn't come with clothes or toys, and they definitely didn't come with directions. Directions for kids who have been through trauma would have been particularly helpful, but no--there were none. For some reason I expected myself, being an educated woman who had worked with children for years, to know what to do. I was shocked and embarrassed that I didn't.
But as with most things, I followed my instinct and, in combinations with a decent support system and experts who did know what they were doing, I grew into a mother.
My definition of a mother is probably a little different than yours, but here it is.
A mother is someone who loves you no matter what you do or say. Even when you've said the worst things possible or even hit her, she still comes back to love you.
A mother listens to the same story over and over, because she knows you need to tell it to understand how it could possibly happen.
A mother knows that you will never understand how that story could have possibly happened, because there is no rhyme or reason to why some people do what they do to children.
A mother goes to your soccer games and screams for your team even when you tell her she's embarrassing you.
A mother plays with your stuffed toys with you, makes up songs about you, and sings them every night before bed.
A mother tells you you're perfect and believes it.
A mother is capable of the gentlest hugs and kisses, and the fiercest fights to defend her children.
A mother insists you clean your room, brush your teeth, and that you know how to wash clothes and cook simple meals so you don't stink or starve when you head off to college in about eight years.
A mother is aware of the precious time that is ticking off the clock before she has to share you with the world.
A mother cries when you get a perfect attendance award, and laughs when you tell the worst knock knock joke she's ever heard.
A mother listens to your dreams and believes they can come true.
A mother accepts that one day she won't be the most important woman in your life anymore, and graciously takes her seat toward the back of your bus.
Happy mother's day to every person out there who is doing a momma's job. You may not have the title of mother, but you're definitely filling her shoes.