Thursday, May 17, 2012

Balm for a Mother's Soul

The day does come when your children are able to do things for themselves. For years and years we do everything for them and then one day they learn to operate a knife, a can opener, the washing machine. And each accomplishment makes you less and less necessary. It’s very freeing.

I had a message from a friend who is home with a baby and a preschooler. She had an awful night and a rough morning. She wouldn’t be able to join me for a glass of wine on the porch that night as we’d planned. Her message catapulted me back to the days of early motherhood when it was an accomplishment just to get a shower or unload the dishwasher. You don’t think those days will ever pass. But in an instant you are reminding your teen to put on deodorant and arguing with your daughter about appropriate attire. (Wait! That’s a bad example, I argued with my daughter over appropriate attire when she was four!)

At our house, I am the parent who plays games. Not head games – Monopoly, Apples to Apples, Spit, Trouble, Risk. When the kids were younger, I always wrestled mentally as to whether I should try to beat them. Nowadays I have to fight for every property, point, and win I get. They are steadily gaining on me.

But what’s really awe-inspiring is when your child becomes better at something than you are. Last Friday night I watched with a smile pasted on my face, choking back tears as my daughter sang in front of a small crowd at the local library. I’ve been watching Addie sing for years, pretty much since she could talk. She sings even when she doesn’t know it – in the shower, as she putzes around the house, while she’s on the swing, in the car with her headphones on.

Last Friday she was participating in an Open Mic Night. She’s done things like this before and she does well – for a pre-teen. But that night she did well – for a human being. Let me back up and confess that I was a music major in college (the first time around). I spent years singing and performing. I did fine. Obviously, I never made a huge impact since you don’t own any of my CD’s. Eventually, I realized that no one was going to pay (much) to hear me sing and I got a real job. Music became my hobby, and soon just a memory.

When old friends hear Addie sing, they always say – “she inherited your voice” and I nod with pride. But let me be the first to tell you, my daughter can sing circles around me. She has a confidence and attitude that I never had behind the microphone. And she has a voice with depth and color beyond her years. Think I’m just an overly proud mom? Check her out on youtube.

It is a powerful moment when you see your child surpass you. My oldest son surpassed my math knowledge back when he was in sixth grade. And sometimes when I read his writing, I am awestruck that he could have this much talent at such a young age. I’m still struggling to write well, and he has a huge head-start on me. I tell him that someday when he gets published, he’ll have to put a good word in for me with his agent.

We all hope that our children will be happy and successful. But we worry – after all these are the people who can’t pick up their wet towels, wipe the jelly off the counter, or find their other shoe. How will they survive on their own?

Motherhood is an epic experience. Although it is never ending, it is rich with powerful moments and even more powerful memories. When we are given glimpses of their abilities it is balm for a mother’s soul. Maybe they will be alright. For Mother’s Day my 15-year-old vacuumed my car and helped his father cook me dinner. In only three years, he will head off to college (or somewhere). I am relieved to see him growing in to the young man I’ve dreamed he will be - even as I close up the cereal box he left out and trip over his sneakers in the hallway.

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