Sunday, May 11, 2014

On Mother's Day

People say, "Parenting is a lot of work." And you get that, but you don't really understand until you have kids of your own. You don't understand how tired a person can be until you have a baby. Your back aches, you can't get a full night's sleep, and you have to carry around a tiny person who needs you to carry her, no matter how bad that kink in your neck is, no matter how much you need to sleep or you really just might fall on your knees and cry.

Having kids is like winning the most wonderful prize in the world, but you kind of miss life before the prize. The prize makes you happier than you've ever been, and clarifies your life's purpose in a way nothing else ever could, but that prize requires constant attention, constant work, constant worry. Nothing is more exhausting than a baby. Nothing, that is, except a toddler.

And more babies.

Your body changes, whether you're a mom or a dad. Your life changes. Your house changes. Your car changes. Your schedule is a shambles, your ability to work severely compromised. You discover you have a terrible temper when you're too tired and overworked, and sometimes you make mistakes. Sometimes you yell, and you see innocent faces looking at you, bewildered and hurt. You apologize, you hate yourself. You sometimes even hate being a parent.

Parenting is a lot of work.

But nothing else gives you those warm cuddles, that soft baby-breath, that sweet silky skin on those chubby arms. Being a parent reconfigures all your senses. You become more fully alive. You become more fully yourself. You learn to love better than you ever have. You accept your mistakes, you move on, you try your hardest to make your all-consuming, unconditional love understood to little people who are as amazed by earth worms as they are by hearing Beethoven's Ode to Joy for the first time. Then you realize earth worms are just as amazing as Beethoven. You see the world in a new way, and that new vision is more precious than the freedom you gave up to get it.

So on this Mother's Day, I wish all of us mothers the very best of luck, because we'll need it, and for the most part, on most days, we probably deserve it.