Outside, it’s snowing. I’m sitting on the sofa surrounded by my sick babies. And I’m loving it.
The two teens and the tween, all three of them, are snuffling, gurgling, noisily suffering the flu. Warm bodies are snuggling up to mine. Giant warm bodies. Big ol’ babies that will never be too old for a caress when they’re sick, never ever too grown up to want Mommy. At least I hope not.
When you’re pregnant with your first child, all you think about, hear about, is the transition from Woman to Mother.
Becoming a mom is a game changer. All of a sudden, you’re completely, for the first time ever, totally responsible for another’s care and well-being, their emotional and physical growth. You are their world, their Everything.
Being a wife means having a partner you care for, sharing a life and experiences, hopefully for your mutual forever. Being a mother is less of a partnership, but more of a responsibility, maybe even a burden – but in the best sense of the word.
Society prepares you, somewhat, for motherhood, but the the reality of mothering doesn’t actually hit until the babymoon is over. And surely no one prepares you for your babies to grow up. It’s hard to be prepared for that point, only a breath away from birth, where you have to let them go so they can become whoever it is that they’re destined to be.
I have never read a book called ‘What to Expect When You Have Teenagers’. Last time I checked, there were no pre-adolescent classes being offered at the local community center, or ladies in the grocery lane pointing at toddlers and sharing unsolicited wives tales about what to do when your teenies become teens.
There is nothing, really, that gets you ready for the reality, emotions, and maybe even feelings of abandonment you experience when you aren’t your child’s whole world anymore.
The funny thing is, when your babies are all over you, when they’re climbing, pulling, squealing, you wonder when they’ll finally be old enough to draw their own baths and shut the door. You wonder when it’s going to get easier. You wait months to hear the word ‘Mommy’ come from their tiny rosebud lips, then when it becomes, ‘Mommy, Mama, Mother!’ you can’t wait for it to stop for just one moment, for them to press the HOLD button on the needing.
Then they do.
Out there in the world, exploring their future grown-up selves, testing boundaries, feeling the waters, teenagers don’t ‘need’ you anymore. Their requests become services, conveniences. Your mothering becomes a means to their end. It’s quiet, maybe even lonely after the rushing of babyhood and the early years. Taxi services and being a human ATM don’t replace the public displays of affection that so horrify teenagers. But you take the time you can get, hoping they’ll share some confidences in the car, hug when you hand over the cash. All of a sudden you’re craving those moments with them. It becomes you wanting from them, you begging for a moment, a conversation.
Except when they’re sick. Then, they want their Mommy. And you love it. Two, maybe three days of caregiving, cuddles, sad little baby faces. You’ve got your opportunity to get your fix.
And then, they’re off again to live their busy teenage lives. And you wait for the next time.