“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
When I discovered that quote when Emily was just a baby, I felt like I had finally found the words that express the depth of love I had for her. I hadn’t anticipated the intensity of it. I remember telling my husband many times in those early days when she was tiny and new, that had I known how incredibly vulnerable I would feel having a child, I am not sure I would have been brave enough to do it. It is SCARY having a little creature out there in the world that you love so passionately, but whom ultimately you have very little control over. Sure, I can (and do, fiercely) protect her from harm to the best of my ability: I make her wear her seatbelt and walk home with friends, not alone; I feed her healthy meals and (try to) make sure she gets enough sleep; I make sure she stays as healthy as possible and take her to the doctor when she isn’t. I do my best to teach her right from wrong, to encourage her to blossom into the best woman she can possibly be. I can love her and I can guide her. But ultimately, I cannot control her or what happens to her. I can’t keep her from getting sick, I can’t shield her from hurt, I can’t force her to make the decisions I think are best for her. All I can do is hope that she will stay safe, and that I have given her a good groundwork for leading a life that will bring her joy.
I also remember telling a coworker how much I adored her and how much fun it was watching her first smile, seeing her really SEE me for the first time, and how sad I was at how quickly her babyhood was flying by me. He was a father. I remember him replying quietly, “It only gets better.” I didn’t believe him at the time—how could it possibly get any better than THIS?!? But you know what? He was absolutely right!
My baby just became a teenager. And I am losing whatever control I thought I had faster than I can bear. I hardly have any relationship at all with her teachers these days; she is dealing with all of her schoolwork and any issues that crop up independently. She discusses things with me, but then ultimately makes her own decisions. She has her own set of friends, many of whom’s parents I have never met. And in fact many of her FRIENDS I have never met. But those I have met really are wonderful kids. Emily has proven to me time and again that she makes good choices when it comes to the kids she hangs around with (and, equally important, those she doesn’t) and the decisions she makes for her life. She willingly puts herself out there, trying out for things I never would have been brave enough to try out for when I was her age: Student Site Council, plays, Student Body Cabinet, A Choir (and just today we found out she made it!)… Sometimes she is successful, other times not so much. When she comes home and tells me of each of these goals she’s set for herself, the little girl AND the protective Mama in me wants to tell her no, don’t try: that way you won’t get hurt. But she is already braver than I ever have been, and she knows too that if she doesn’t take the risks she can’t reap the joy. Of course the heartbreak comes too, but even that she is all the stronger for facing, for in hearbreak she learns that she really IS strong enough to make it through both the good and the bad. In many ways I really do think she teaches me more than I do her.
(Excuse the quality of the images; most are scanned from old prints.)
Before I know it my sweet girl will be heading off to high school. Then she will be driving. Getting a job. Applying for college. GOING to college. Settling into a career, I hope, that makes her heart sing. Maybe even walking down the aisle toward guy of her dreams with whom she’ll have her own beautiful family. Just the thought of those things bring tears to my eyes. But watching the incredible, kind, smart, compassionate, honest, independent, loyal woman she is growing into is the most amazing, miraculous thing I could ever imagine witnessing. She is what I treasure most in this world, and is also my dearest friend. And so that is how I view motherhood: for me, it the most boundless love I ever could have imagined. It is snuggling on bad days but also just on lazy, TV-filled days. It’s the surreal concept that somehow my husband and I have created a beautiful human being that makes us so proud. It is feeling your heart burst with love one moment and being happy to send the eye-rolling kid off to school the next. But mostly, it is doing your best to raise an amazing new person, even while knowing that ultimately your job is to let that awesome person go, hoping and trusting that you did a good job.
(The above images taken by the amazingly talented Bree Franklin).
Now please continue our circle, to see how my friend Sarah Cambio interprets for “Motherhood”!