Sunday, September 4, 2011

On Being a Mother

I'll never forget the moment when I first realized I was about to become a mother to not one, but two children.

I was sitting in a room full of social workers and attorneys, who had just asked other relatives to leave the room.  Once it was just the five or six of us (me plus three social workers and a guardian ad litum), I was told, "Look, you cannot take only one child.  These children must stay together.  Either you take them both, or they both go to foster care."

I was there by myself.  My husband was four hours away at work, and we were due to go before the judge in five minutes.  I dialed my cell phone frantically, trying to get my husband to discuss this recent development.  See, everyone had previously agreed that we would raise our son, and our daughter would be raised by another relative.  It wasn't' until this moment--five minutes before we saw Your Honor--that I realized my life was about to change for forever.

I never did get up with my husband before court.  Shakily, I agreed with all of the officials there that we would take custody of both children.  I was about to be a mother.

Most women have nine months to get used to the idea of their families expanding.  I had less than six weeks, from the time the children were removed from their biological mother until they were placed with us.  The practicality of the situation was difficult.  We had no beds, no clothing, no carseats.  No toys.  If you had been a fly on the wall in those first several weeks, you would have seen how anxious and worried I was in my ability to be a good mother.

Once, many years ago, somebody asked me what makes a good mother.  "Well," I replied, " a good mother is someone who nurtures her children, who loves them no matter what, who disciplines appropriately, who never yells but is understanding.  A good mother feeds her children healthy food, makes sure they don't watch too much tv, and gives them appropriate toys.  Good mothers also make sure homework is done, extracurricular activities are planned, and stays in touch with teachers and coaches.  Good mothers make sure there is a structure to the day and that children follow it."

My friend stared at me, nodding slightly, and then said, "Are you for real?"

It took me years to learn that yes, good mothers do a combination of those things, but sometimes we fall off the wagon or other priorities come first.  But overall, when you look at my children and my life, two people come ahead of everyone else, and I don't apologize for that.  There is nobody else in this world who will love, respect, and honor these children the way that I do.  That's because I'm a damn good mother.

I struggle with things like every parent.  My temper flares sometimes.  I don't check up on homework every night.  Some weeks we eat way too much junk.  And every once in awhile, I've been known to say something hurtful.  But I recognize the mistake and move on.

Being a mother is an amazing experience.  I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.  I can't imagine my life without my children in it.  They are amazing people who have taught me more lessons than anyone else.  As parents, we often get locked into the "authority figure" type role, when in reality, our children are as much our teachers as anyone else.  The love you feel for your children is alive in itself, palpable and real.

And the love never stops.  Once you're a mother, you stay one.

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