Growing up, your world revolves around your own experiences. Your parents have a very specific role in helping you adjust to life as a child with each new challenge. You begin to form dreams about what your future might hold and memories about your past. There seems to be an infinite generational gap between you and your parents. As you mature into your 20’s, your individual perspectives on life begin to assimilate and the lines between parent and child may seem more blurry.
For me, each new mile marker as an adult gives a very slight understanding of what my parents went through raising us. As Mother’s Day comes and goes, I reflect on how my life has changed with a two-and-a-half year old plus one on the way. My understanding of my mother’s life raising four kids becomes more real, and I even find myself envisioning a day in her life.
The Story Begins
My mom and dad were married in February 1983. They quickly became pregnant with my older brother, and by 1985 they had two kids only 18 months apart. But one more surprise was on the way. My mom found out she was pregnant again only one year later. This time it was twins. She showed up at her best friend’s door step in tears with the thought of having four kids in under four years.
The days after my little brother and sister were born were pretty fuzzy for her. She had very little help from her parents or in laws. She was basically on her own with the exception of one lady who cooked meals and helped clean the house for a few hours on Thursdays. She tells stories of how she prepped bottles against her own judgement and dealt with the constant cries of both newborns and toddlers simultaneously. One day, she woke up with the flu and no help from anyone. She locked us all into the same room and threw Cheerios and juice boxes at us to make sure we were fed without spreading her sickness.
As we got older, the stories get funnier.
Our home videos could seriously compete with America’s Funniest Home Videos. My brothers dressing up in my ballet costumes for home recitals. Turning up Raffi so loud in the car to tune out all of our wining and moaning on long car trips. Getting locked out of the house for hours during the summer because we would drive her bonkers inside. My mom paging us over the intercom at Wal-Mart because we would wander off. Strangers would stop her in public and ask if she ran a small day care. My sister and I could be spotted from a mile away at the YMCA swimming pool with oversized bows in our hair and white, sunscreen tinted faces so that she could keep track of us.
While we joke about how mischievous we were as kids, the weight of four teenagers in high school at the same time was not easy either. While my parents made it a priority for us to attend private school, money was tight. While my friends were buying new clothes from the Limited and Doc Martin shoes, we didn’t have the money for brand names. We received a small allowance for chores and good grades that we could spend on whatever we wanted. If we wanted more, we were encouraged to get babysitting or lawn care jobs.
At the time, I felt like it was unfair. My friends were driving new cars and planning sweet 16 parties while I was working and trying to save money. Looking back, this was by far the most valuable experience as a teenager and young adult. I knew what it felt like to have my own bank account and spend money that I earned. And while my parents did this out of pure necessity, I am forever grateful.
Looking back on our relationship
I don’t remember having long heart felt conversations with my mom. Life was busy for her, and she remained focused on the constant shuttling of kids to after school events, sports and youth group. Dinner was served every night around 7 pm, and everyone was required to eat together. Church was every Sunday morning at 10:3o am with a family lunch planned afterwards.
Now that I’m a wife and a mom, I seriously cannot understand how she managed all of it. To say I am grateful for her endless sacrifice and patience would be a large understatement. Not only am I grateful for my upbringing, but the continued support as an adult. My mom is one of those grandparents that will drop everything for us. We now have time for those long conversations and have become immensely close since sharing the role of motherhood.
A card and a gift for Mother’s Day just doesn’t seem like enough to say thank you. As a way to demonstrate my love and appreciation for my mom, I want to pass on the selfless, beautiful traits to my children in hopes they will have the same enriched childhood.