I never realized how amazing mothers were until I became one.
That’s when, sitting in the family room of our Alaskan post house, fresh home from the airport where I’d returned my hubby to his 16-month sandbox tour, staring at a tiny, 10-day-old human who I had no idea how to keep alive, I called my mommy (who I had decided just 10 years before knew nothing), and in the most round-about, indirect, refusing-to-show-my-cards kind of way asked her to teach me everything she knew.
(The only question the nurses asked before they released this 7-pound miracle from the hospital was whether I had a safe car seat. Not whether I knew how to change diapers. Not whether I, at age 23, knew what I was doing. If Graco could keep the baby alive, apparently so could I. We should really have a better parent screening system in this country …)
Two more superheroes later, I don’t just casually admit that my mama (and Supersoldier’s, who I call “Mom” and consider an incredibly important and vital part of my mama life!) may have had a trick or two up her sleeve. I now publicly admit: Mom, who somehow raised three children, worked one full-time teaching job, taught an additional 40 piano lessons a week and managed to attend every rehearsal, play and band performance while still preparing a full, hot dinner that my family ate together at the table every night while never yelling, screaming or giving up on a really moody teenage daughter, really did know everything.
She was right about damage and the age spots she said the tanning beds would do to my skin. (I’ve lived the last three years under a full cover of sunblock 50 to try and reverse the years the tanning bed stole from my face.)
She was right about the fact that children DO have this innate ability to gray hair faster than bleach (which is why I am now returning to the blonder version of myself).
She was right about the fact that I could hate her now and thank her later for the rules, restrictions and boundaries she placed around my life. (Although I still believe that a 10 p.m. curfew the night before I got married may have been a little strict …)
And I have NO shame calling in the middle of pooping, puking, temper tantrum-ing and back talking episodes to ask for her advice (and her backup).
After spending the first decade of my parenting life asking these questions via telephone and email from every time zone, I somehow even dangled the grandchild bait and convinced her and my dad to sell their homes in Michigan and D.C. last summer, apply for new jobs in my area and leave their entire lives to move 16 minutes down the road. So that now when I need to know why boys can’t control their bodily functions or why my 10-year-old hates hygiene more than he hates being late (and that is a lotta lotta lotta late hate), I don’t just call. I plop myself down in that woman’s family room until she feeds me (really good) home-cooked food, entertains my boys and tells me everything I need to know to keep humans alive (and their parents rational) for 18 years.
Total game changer. And military life saver.
Because Mom isn’t just an amazing listening ear, a great parent counselor and, with more than 30 years of experience as a school teacher, a fabulous resource for engaging young minds (and getting them excited about learning new things … like how to keep the pee inside the toilet bowl). She’s also one of those servant-hearted angels who joyfully dives in to help out at every turn.
I called Mom once from the football field of Superhero 2, where Superhero 3 had just vomited all over my Nikes as I stood in the team picture line with Superhero 2’s flag football team (thankfully, these football players weren’t turned off by a little regurgitated chili), trying to rush my way through pictures so I could fly down the street to the field where dark clouds threatened to end the football practice of Superhero 1. (Because really, my life would be too easy if both football players played on the same team, league, age group or practice field.)
Mom met me at a post office parking lot on my way to the next football field to exchange the puker for some Lysol wipes and promptly took Superhero 3 home, where she cuddled him, loved on him and cared for him until I could round up the other two superheroes and return to the house.
One time, she volunteered to stop by my house after her already busy day of piano lessons and band practice to sit with three sleeping superheroes so that I could take lattes to my dear friend, who was also embracing life alone on the homefront and who, after a string of urgent care and emergency room visits, had discovered that one of her superheroes had ALSO now brought home lice. (Murphy is not kind to military mamas on the homefront.) While I sipped coffee and truly enjoyed three hours of late-night, lice-picking girl talk across town, my mama slept on my couch and kept my superheroes safe.
She’s invited us over for more events, cooked more “I-can’t-imagine-cooking-after-this-day” deployment dinners and has even set up a special Sunday night with the boys where I drop them at her house for three hours while I attend a church life group, and she gives one boy piano lessons, one boy Kindermusik lessons and one boy cooking lessons before she feeds them the dinner she and Superhero 1 prepare and sends them home with full bellies and even fuller, grandparent-filled hearts.
It’s ironic that I spent the first 15 years of my adult life trying to be as independent and get as far away as possible. But now, after tasting the beauty of life with parents in the same town, I don’t know how I’d ever live apart. (Military, I know you heard me on that one. We have three and a half years left. Be kind.)
Mom, I love you so much, and I’m so thankful for not just what you DO, but who you ARE. Thank you for modeling for me the patience, joy and servant-hearted attitude I hope I can bring to MY family. Someday, when my husband gets out of the military, I owe you one. Or 5,326.
Just add it to my deployment tab. :)