I never wanted to be a mother. I didn't have any good role models and I didn't want to screw up any more children. I wanted the cycle of abuse to end with me.
But not in the way I expected.
When my niece was born, a part of my soul opened up to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I could do this motherhood thing and not screw up my kids. What I didn't expect is what I would get out of the process.
Motherhood gave me an opportunity to explore parts of my heart I either didn't know were there or I had closed up like an old dusty building in a small, southern town. You know, the ones with the crooked, dirty "closed" sign hanging on the door. The sign that bangs against the door when the wind blows and says "open up...we can't be closed!". Motherhood not only kicked in that door, it burnt the place to the ground and rebuilt a beautiful, strong, and useful structure in its place.
Motherhood allowed me to end the cycle of mistakes, misdeeds and abuse that had been part of my heritage for as far back as I can trace. This included incest, racism, physical and emotional abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, narcissism, sociopaths, untreated bi-polar disorder, neglect...to name a few. That's not to say I haven't made my share of mistakes because (as evidenced by this blog) clearly I have; but I've been able to correct more than I've made and that's a win in my book.
Motherhood has allowed me to stay young and silly. I was always a goof. I love animation and cartoons. I like to play. I like to get dirty. My kids have let me do that. My parents didn't play with us. They were busy being self absorbed and if there wasn't anything in it for them, they figured it was "kid stuff". I always wanted to be a part of my kids lives so we played. I played Barbies with my niece and makeup with my step-daughter. Then when the boys arrived I played trucks and cars and Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. I sit and watch and discuss the video games they play (I tried playing them...I suck...big time). I watched all their shows as kids and still do now. I can name names when it comes to anything on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network or PBS. Sometimes I catch myself watching an old episode of Arthur because it's one I haven't seen - when there is no one else home.
Motherhood has taught me to listen. Not just the listening skills you use in everyday life. The ones that allow you to hear subtle changes in inflection and tone that tell you that someone is sick, or hurting, or upset or depressed. Or the ones that have you listening with your eyes and let you see the sparkle in their eyes or the bounce in their step because they are in love for the first time or have something exciting to tell you. Or the ones that immediately draw your attention so that if you're ARE trying to focus you have to say, "Shush one sec, mommy needs to focus and when you speak, you're all I want to hear."
Motherhood has allowed me to really see. To see the world through the eyes of children. To watch while they discover the wonder of "night music" (a warm summer night when crickets and tree frogs and other creatures sing). Or a particularly beautiful sunset. To see the look of wonder on their faces as they discover Disney World. Or kindergarten. To see their smiles when dad comes home at the end of the day. Or mom walks in the door from a business trip (that's one of my favorites).
Motherhood has made me believe in magic. The magic that comes with Christmas morning after Santa has visited. The magic of Harry Potter and a decade of enjoyment as Harry grew with my kids. The magic of Prom. Thge magic of a national championship after my daughter has worked so hard to coach her daughter's cheer leading team. That magic of the first home run. That magic of a first pair of glasses that allowed W to see. The magic of the first solo performance. The look on my nephew's face when he passed the GED.
Motherhood has made me believe in miracles. The miracle of getting all three of my children into a small, Catholic school that was full. The miracle of a good eye doctor or baseball coach or music teacher. The miracle of being in the room when two of my daughter's children were born. The miracle of realizing that although you'll always be a mother figure for her, your stepdaughter can become one of your best friends. The miracle of rediscovering your Faith through and because of them. The miracle of watching them grow into good and decent and happy people.
The miracle that a child born to my nephew - might do for him what he did for me. The miracle that, a little bundle might reach his heart and burn his old building down as well.
The miracle of sobriety for their sake.
Motherhood has taught me more about unconditional love than any therapist, book, documentary or movie ever has. For me, there was nothing like the moment my baby made real eye contact for the first time and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was loved for no other reason than because I was me. That shit is powerful.
Thank you for the gift of motherhood. I hope I make you proud.
Happy Mother's Day!