Those tiny little toes and tiny little fingers, the sweet baby smell on a fuzzy little head… The puffy eye that was caused by his fist he had balled up in front of his face during his journey into this side of the world… The blissful peace of holding him on my chest to feed and to rest…
I remember this day as though it was yesterday. Becoming a mother for the first time, I had done so much planning. I read books, I painted his room and I bought all of the matching décor for the Classic Winnie the Pooh theme that I had selected. His dad attached chair rail molding around the room and we pasted a matching wallpaper border above it. I washed all of his outfits and blankets and crib sheets in Dreft, the intoxicating scented laundry detergent that was specially formulated for babies’ delicate skin. When the day came, I wanted everything to be perfect. It was perfect, or so I thought.
When I returned to work, he was merely ten weeks old. No one prepared me for how hard this transition would be. His two grandmothers took care of him for a short time, but when he was 15 months old, he started going to a daycare center. This is on the list of one of the hardest things that I have ever done. I’m serious. Dropping your baby off with strangers and leaving him when he is crying is a pain that no one prepared me for. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the challenging parts of parenthood.
That was twenty years ago. TWENTY. I can barely say that out loud, but yes, my firstborn child, my only son, turned twenty years old last month. He is no longer a baby. No longer a child. Though he has a long way to grow, he is an adult. He is a man. Whoa. No one told me how this was going to feel.
Being a mom for twenty years has been a whirlwind of a journey. It is the job you are handed with no instructions. At times, you wonder why you signed up to do it. Other times, you cannot imagine your life without it. Most of the time, it seems that you wing it and hope for the best. Most of the time, that is true.
In twenty years, I learned some things. One of which is that no one tells you how hard it is going to be. No one will tell you how much it really hurts to be a mom. Instead, people only talk about how wonderful it is to be a mom. How it is a blessing like no other. How it gives us a sense of purpose. Yeah. Okay. Whatever.
Sure, there are things that I knew. I knew that kids get sick and sometimes you have to stay home from work to take care of them. I also knew that kids grow teeth and get really cranky while that is happening. I knew about the sleepless nights, the diaper rash, the poop stained clothes. I knew what foods to feed him at what age. I had researched all of the best things. I knew all about car seats and strollers. I knew the things I would need to teach him. The alphabet and colors and shapes. How to use manners. How to follow rules.
I knew there could be ear infections, but no one told me there could be so many that he might develop potentially life threatening sepsis and need to stay in the hospital on IV antibiotics for 8 days. I knew there would be stomach viruses, but no one told me they could get so bad to require a hospital stay that could cause a cancelled second birthday party
I knew that he would need to go to Kindergarten when he turned five years old. I knew it would be hard to let go and that there might be tears for both of us. But no one told me that he might not make lots of friends and not get invited to all of the birthday parties that his classmates had. No one told me that he might not like school as much as I thought he would.
Nothing prepared me for having a child that was not going to fit the mold of everyone else. I did not know that he would run slower than his peers. I did not know that he would not be able to tie his shoes until he was 13. He never got any good at catching a ball, riding a bike or learning how to swim. No one told me these things could happen. And that it would hurt so much to watch him struggle.
In twenty years, I watched him struggle with maintaining friendships. Try to ignore the bullies. Become angry when he did not fit in anywhere. No one told me how hard it was going to be to transition from elementary school into middle school. No one told me that he was going to lose the few friends he had. Or how much that would hurt him. Or that it could get worse in high school.
No one told me that he might be depressed. Or on the autism spectrum. But there are a lot of things that no one talks about. No one talks about things that make their kids different from the rest.
No one talks about the things that could happen that make us uncomfortable. Like when he would be taken to the youth detention center because it was a consequence of a bad decision he made during high school. Or when he practically dropped out of school until we found him an alternative private school so that he could finish his work at home. No one told me that he might not walk across the stage in a cap and gown to graduate like the other kids did.
No one tells you that your baby might grow up to be different than you expected. No one tells you that is okay either. Instead, us moms tend to wonder what we did wrong when our kids take us down a path we least expected. Stop that right now.
But it IS okay. Give yourself a pat on the back mommas. It is HARD to get to this point.
Being mom is not what I expected.
All we can do is our best. And just love them for who they are.