Friday, May 7, 2010

Word to your Mother

Have you bought your flowers yet? It is this Sunday.

Mother’s Day, obviously, has some new meaning to Leanne, and to me, now that we are parents. Sure, Leanne was a mother last Mother’s Day too, but there is something about having done this for a year now that makes our parental status more official.

(Fair warning: I'm about to become sappy and sentimental)

You learn things as parents. You become part of a club. It is like getting married or going to college or anything else that someone does that you can’t really explain to people who haven’t done it. I have this shared experience with legions of the living and the dead. Everyone who has held a child knows how I feel when I hold my daughter. My father. My grandfathers. They did the same things I did. I watch Leanne do the simple things that a mother does – hold Olive just a little closer when she cries, brush her hair away from her face, tickle her feet, giggle at her half toothless grin – and I know that my mother and my grandmothers and her mother and her grandmothers did the same thing. The pit in your stomach as you cradle a sick child, rocking her back to sleep. The comfort you get from leaving the bedroom door open a crack to hear her breath, in and out, after she finally gets to sleep. I’m not the only one to have felt like this.

My mother and father raised four kids. Having just one child in my life makes me realize that no gift I could ever give my mom, no flowers or trips to brunch, would make up for those gifts she has given me. It also makes me wonder how, for 18 years, she successfully restrained herself from smacking me from here to Tuesday.

This is someone who would wake up in the middle of the night to hold me and rock me and sing me a song, even when all she wanted was a just a little more sleep. She giggled at my crooked smile. She wiped the hair away from my eyes.

She held my hands as I learned to walk and made sure that my food wasn’t too hot. The little things DO matter, you know. She got me to school every day and didn’t let me settle for what she and I both knew was well enough, because I COULD do better than that. She kissed my bruises and bandaged my cuts – and my ego.

She got me to practice on time…and then stayed for the scrimmage…and then washed my uniform…and then folded it. Then she yelled at me when I didn’t put it away.

She let me make my own mistakes even though, I know now, not being able to break your child’s fall is like being in free fall yourself. Letting kids help themselves renders you helpless. She didn’t let me stay out let and get into nothing but trouble, even though it broke her heart to hear me say that someone else’s mom was cooler or better.

I do these things, or will do these things, for Olive. And just the same, she really won’t appreciate the love, the sacrifice, the pain, and the joy that go into them. I now know what my mom meant when she would explain her actions to me by saying, “You’ll understand someday.” Mom, I’m getting there.

Now, when Olive does something particularly cute, Leanne and I look at each other and say “Aww, someday she is going to say, ‘I hate you, mom and dad.’”

It is our way of forcing ourselves to realize that it won’t always be this easy and that big challenges lie ahead. We also joke about it because at one point or another we both thought it or said it to our own parents, without really knowing what we were saying – and now we can’t imagine how we could have been so stupid.

All those wet towels on the floor. All those dishes left in TV room after a snack cause mom will get them later. All those useless arguments. All those times I put my parents through the wringer for reasons I can’t remember and probably didn’t even understand at the time. All those nights I ignored my curfew thinking that 15 minutes wasn’t a big deal. All those years I just didn’t know how much someone can love someone else. I cringe. I cringe at what I didn’t know.

When you become a parent you know.

You know how much you put in to trying to do this parenting thing right, and how much you have invested in your kids. It makes you want to spend equal time thanking and apologizing the people that raised you and somehow did do it right.

So to Leanne, to my mom, and to all the mothers – Thank you. And I’m sorry.

Happy Mother’s Day.


  1. Well said, Jeff. And Happy Mother's Day, Leanne!

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  3. u-favorite-mum-in-lawMay 21, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    Aw! My daughter is sooo.... blessed to have you as a husband and Olive as a father. Your words brought smiles, laughter and a tear to my eyes. I thank my children and their spouses for being who they are and giving me beautiful grandchildren. I'm still learning how precious my kids are even at my age. I enjoyed spending Mother's Day with you. Thanks making it a special day for me.