I was never one of those girls who grew up dreaming about her wedding and having a houseful of kids. It’s not because I didn’t like kids, I did, but I was always focused on getting through college and getting established in a career. My own mother had 4 kids in just over 5 years and was back to working full time as a nurse by the time I was in elementary school. I saw first hand how difficult it could be trying to balance work and family and still have some time for yourself. My first real job after high school was working for Parks and Recreation running after school programs, tiny tots classes, and sports leagues. It was a job I enjoyed, but I was happy at the end of the day to send the kids home with someone else. I continued to work summers at the parks throughout my college years. It was three years after I finished college that I fell in love with the man who would become my husband and we began to have serious discussions about starting a family. It was another three years before our son was born, followed by our daughter two years later. I was 29 when I became a mom for the first time.
I had so much to learn about being a mom. I had never been around babies, especially newborns very much until my own children were born. There were plenty of people around that were willing to offer advice and suggestions along with countless self-help books, for which I was grateful. But in the end I had to find my own way to navigate the never-ending challenging that go hand-in-hand with being a good mom. Disposable diapers were just becoming all the rage when my son was born. But I wanted to be more environmentally conscious and brought him home from the hospital with a couple of dozen cloth diapers at the ready on the changing table that my husband built. My foray into social consciousness ended quickly and I began to pick up economy size packages of Huggies on my lunch break at the Toys R Us down the street from the post office where I worked. This is just one early example of my fallback strategy of child rearing, trial and error. I don’t know any mom who hasn’t made some errors along the way, but hopefully none that leave a permanent scar.
Each of my kids do have an actual permanent scar or two, literally. My son’s first emergency room visit occurred when he was about three or four and another kid at his YMCA childcare threw a toy that hit him in the forehead. Just a couple of stitches and he was good to go. My daughter was about the same age when she fell and hit her head on some jagged rocks while we were on a camping trip. Even though it took an hour to get to the hospital, she never cried, even when the doctor stitched up the wound without anesthesia. It seemed they both were born with a calm demeanor and steady resolve that made them appear mature beyond their years. That was a blessing and a curse as occasionally I would place more responsibility on them than was reasonable given their age. Even though they have survived and thrived it all, I still feel the pain of some of my poor decisions to this day.
I also remember teaching them to drive, both a stick and an automatic, and then waiting anxiously as they took their driver’s license exams. I celebrated with them as they each earned their license on the first attempt. Still I said a little prayer each time they pulled out of the driveway. I couldn’t fall asleep until they poked their head into our bedroom to let us know they got home safely. When they went away to college clear across the country, I asked them to call me once a week when it was most convenient for them. Even though my parenting responsibility was now more of an “advise” rather than “consent” situation, I wanted to always keep in touch. Now, more than ten years later they still call me nearly every week. And while I am disappointed on those rare occasions when then don’t, I remember how it was when I was their age. But I’ll never stop being a mom, loving them and worrying just a little. After all, isn’t that what a mom should do?