Like most mother-daughter relationships, our partnership has progressed through all of the traditional stages. As a child I was her bike-riding sidekick and Christmas tree decorating assistant. As a bratty pre-teen, she made sure my softball uniform was always clean and I made sure to invite a herd of my cereal-eating friends over without warning to drive up her grocery bill. As a know-it-all teenager, I lamented her rules while benefiting from her unwavering support and constant care. It wasn’t until my college years that I finally realized how much I missed her homemade mashed potatoes and around the clock laundry service. In my 20s she was my biggest cheerleader, my staunchest defender, my shopping partner and my wedding planner. And now, as a mother and wife in my mid-30s, I rely on her guidance and assistance more than ever.
I can’t tell you how many urgent calls I’ve made during the last seven years that have resulted in her jumping in her car and driving over to help. When my son split his chin open on the shower rail, I called her on speakerphone while I held him wrapped in a towel on my lap and waited for her arrival and opinion to determine if he needed to go to the hospital for stitches. She volunteered to take my daughter who was, by this time, sitting in a cold bath and wondering why her crazy mother was crying. A year before this, she drove to my house in record time when I called to report that my daughter had cut her nose on a can of corn while playing in the pantry when I was cooking dinner. (I swear I am not a negligent mother, my kids are just a tad bit clumsy and I’m more than a tad bit squeamish of blood.) Not to leave my youngest out, my Mom was the first person I called when the doctor came in on my baby’s first day in this world to inform me that she might be transferred to the ICU. Without having to ask, my mom (who had stayed the night before until 3 a.m. to witness her birth) raced back to the hospital and spent the day rocking the baby and reassuring me that everything would be fine. And it was—Mamas always know. It’s nice to have a Nana on call to swoop in with reassuring words and a calming presence that makes everyone, myself included, feel better. She also buys Band-Aids in bulk to fix a variety of scrapes (real and imagined) and delivers popsicles and 7-Up to sick grandbabies who are more than just a little bit spoiled.
It’s not until I became a mother that I realized just how labor-intensive that job really is. I always wondered why my mom was ready for bed by 9:00. I thought she was just a party pooper, but it turns out she was understandably exhausted from a full day spent working and cleaning, cooking and carpooling. Her day began hours before the rest of us woke up and she’s kept this same schedule for the last 34 years as my youngest brother is a freshman in high school and a few years away from leaving the nest. And now I know that Moms really don’t have “sick days” because, after all, the laundry won’t fold itself and for some reason the kids think they need to eat every day.
The influence of a mother is impossible to understate. Her example becomes your habit and her voice becomes your own. Have you ever opened your mouth to speak and out pops one of your mother’s characteristic phrases? I frequently tell my children that I want to “squeeze their guts out.” The first time I said it, my husband looked at me in horror and disbelief until I explained that this means I love them so much that I want to give them a big squeezer hug. (Some phrases tend to get lost in translation, but you get my point.) A mother is a beacon in the night and the calm in the storm. She can simultaneously serve as both a confidant and a critic, your biggest supporter and your most cautious advisor. She can mend broken hearts with trips to the mall and cure boredom with marathons of reality TV and homemade popcorn doused with unspeakable amounts of butter. A mother sews ripped prom dresses and pays for wedding gowns. She makes your favorite cake for your birthday (fresh coconut crème) and buys diet pop when you are coming over for dinner. She knows your greatest secrets and has bared witness to your darkest hours, and still loves you all the same. Over the years, a mother dries your tears and a few of her own. And she holds the unique position of having changed both your diapers and those of your children.
So, on this last day of the year, as I pause to reflect on my blessings and give thanks for the wonderful people in my life, I want to send out a special thank you to all of the moms who sacrifice their own needs for those of their children.
Thank you for staying up late to help with homework and getting up early to make breakfast. Thank you for spending your days in the boardroom and your nights in the bleachers. Thank you for skipping showers and hair appointments to make it to gymnastics. A special thanks to all of you single mothers who must also play the part of dad and bear the full weight and responsibility of parenthood—I am in awe of your selflessness and amazed by your strength. To the moms who marry into motherhood and assume the role with grace and dignity, thank you for showing the world that love isn’t bound by bloodline. And for those of you that welcome children into your arms that you didn’t carry in their wombs, you are proof that a mother’s love is unconditional and the world could use a few more women like you. And for the moms who are watching from Heaven, we search for your guidance in our hearts and your absence is felt daily. Even though we wish we could hear your voice just one more time, we know that you are making our favorite cake in preparation for our glorious reunion and rocking our babies before you send them down to us.
And, to my own mom, thank you for setting the standard for what a mother should be and for loving my babies as your own. I even forgive you for loading them up with cookies and sweet tea before sending them back home. I recognize karmic justice when I see it.