The local Sunday paper published an article for Mother’s Day called “The Things We Do For Love”, by Suzanne Cassidy. Usually, on Mother’s Day, we focus on what our mothers mean to us or on the very important roles mothers play in the lives of their children. Ms. Cassidy approaches motherhood from an entirely different and thought-provoking perspective. Her article focuses on the often surprising ways that motherhood changes who we are as women. She makes this point by interviewing several women who feel that motherhood has taken them in directions they never would have gone on their own. Of course, I immediately started thinking about my own life as a mom. Have my children really shaped and molded me? After just the slightest bit of consideration, I have to answer with a resounding “Yes!” Now, I could get into the heavy stuff like how I have developed more patience and replaced selfishness with self-sacrifice. In reality, I think I expected those things to happen when I became a mom. In Ms. Cassidy’s article, the focus is on those unexpected experiences and moments that often cause women to feel the most like mothers. This article wasn’t focusing on heavy-duty stuff. And neither am I. I am just talking about things I have done for the love of my children that I am pretty sure I couldn’t or wouldn’t have done for any other reason on this earth.
How My Kids Have Changed Me
1. I can be an early bird. My husband and I are night owls. Anyone who knows us even casually can attest to that fact. How an early bird came from our genes is a mystery, but she did. Our daughter, Lovey (who is also our oldest) awoke at the crack of dawn for years. Every morning, when I heard her gurgly little voice on the monitor, I would drag myself out of bed and start our day. Getting up at 5:30 in the morning went against every fiber in my being. But I did it, because I loved her. When our boys each came along, they decided they liked to get up early, too. Our middle son, Buddy, was notorious for waking up to see the garbage truck or the leaf vacuum truck in the early morning hours. I never truly converted to being a morning person. I still live to stay up late and sleep in. But my kids taught me that I was capable of getting up really early and surviving.
2. I can sing. Really, I can’t. At all. But my kids sure thought I could. And they wanted me to sing every night at bedtime. I confess that I did imagine myself singing lullabies to my babies before I became a parent. And that’s how the whole singing at bedtime thing got started. But we quickly graduated from lullabies to requests for songs like the Veggie Tales theme song, Sleeping Beauty’s “Once Upon a Dream”, “Jesus Loves Me”, “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “B-I-N-G-O”, and “Away in a Manger”. I think the Bob the Builder theme song might have been in there, too. Ace, our youngest son, had a stuffed dog named Digby that went everywhere with him. I would change the words to B-I-N-G-O and spell D-I-G-B-Y for him and he loved it. The bedtime singing stopped awhile ago – I think when my kids realized just how bad my voice really was. But I’m glad I let go of my inhibitions. I would have missed out on some great bonding times serenading sleepy-eyed munchkins to dreamland.
3. I am a walking encyclopedia of all things mechanical. Construction vehicles, farm machinery, trains – you name it. With two small boys, I spent tons of time reading books and watching movies about trucks, tractors, and airplanes. I know what a grapple skidder is. And a Shinkansen. And a harvester. Do I care one bit? NO. But my boys did. Driving in the Pathfinder routinely became a scavenger hunt for big equipment. I knew I had been completely brainwashed when I excitedly pointed out a huge crane on the bed of a tractor trailer and then realized no one was in the truck but me.
4. I became a seamstress. When I was younger, my mom sewed clothing for us all the time. She taught me a few basics. And I took Home Ec in 8th grade and sewed the mandatory skirt. As an adult, I have sewn a few curtains, shades and table covers. That is the extent of my skill with a sewing machine, needle, and thread. Why, then, have I attempted to make some of the most difficult Halloween costumes known to man??? I have no explanation except that my daughter asked me to. For years, I spent hours the few days before Halloween fashioning princesses dresses, Robin Hood cloaks, and puppy costumes. I cursed, shunned sleep, and turned grey in the process. The end products wouldn’t win any fair prizes. I’m not even sure I enjoyed it. But n the end, the kids had quality costumes not just for Halloween but for dress-up all year round. Our dress-up box became a favorite of nieces, nephews, and friends for years. I haven’t done much sewing lately. The kids like putting their own costumes together now and I encourage that kind of creativity. I’m happy to give the sewing machine a rest. Even so, now I know I could sew if it ever became a necessity.
5. I am an expert baker – especially of cookies. I like to bake. I liked it before I had any children. Having kids just pushed me into a whole different level of baking. I can’t begin to count how many dozens of cookies I’ve baked for teachers’ Christmas gifts, school parties, and peer helper meetings. And yes, just recently I was that mom who was baking cookies at midnight for her daughter’s tutoring party at school. I’ve always loved baking. Now, thanks to my kids, I can say I’m pretty good at it.
Besides the baking, most of the things I’ve mentioned took place when my kids were younger. Now that they’re older, they are shaping me in different ways. For instance, Ace loves history. Every vacation we take must involve some kind of historical component. We’ve been to Fort Niagara and Fort McHenry and many places in Philadelphia. We’ve toured the Constellation and the Torsk in Baltimore. Recently, we spent some time in Pittsburgh with Fort Pitt a proposed part of the agenda. Let me just say that Fort Pitt is a bugger to find. The signs are misleading, the GPS was useless, and if Hubby and I were alone we would have given up. However, we persevered and found a very interesting museum. I gained insight into the complicated politics between England, France, and the Native Americans and the vital role Fort Pitt played in America’s history. All this because a nine-year old boy that I love likes history.
Buddy isn’t into garbage trucks anymore. But he is very interested in playing the electric guitar and thinking about rock and roll. Now, I love rock and roll. It’s my guilty pleasure. But Buddy has pushed me to be a a veritable storehouse of rock and roll facts. He is always asking me questions. Who are my top five choices for best guitar player of all time? What is my favorite song? Why was Blondie considered punk rock (after listening to”The Tide Is High”)? Who in their right mind would think that George Harrison was one of the best guitar players in rock and roll history? Does Billy Joe Armstrong have a tenor voice? On and on and on. We spend a great deal of time on the Internet looking up information. And I spend a lot of time listening to “Holiday” and “Crazy Train” played on a 100 watt amplifier. Never in my wildest dreams did I think motherhood would involve Green Day and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s a nice surprise, though.
Lovey never really grew out of the dress-up phase. Now, instead of Halloween costumes, she dresses up for plays and productions at school. And she is completely in love with Les Miserables. She has several editions of the soundtrack, the anniversary CD and the sheet music so she can play it on her flute. Hubby and I took her to see the show when it came to town. That is when I fell in love with the music. Now we listen to the soundtrack when we’re in the car together and I always cry when Fantine sings “I Dreamed a Dream”. Such a heart-breaking, haunting song. My daughter is a true romantic. And she insists on taking me with her on her heart-rending journeys.
Because I am a mom, I’ve dug through public trash cans looking for carelessly tossed retainers (one time I did the tossing). I’ve rescued a field mouse from our window well because the kids were worried it would starve to death but were afraid to touch the little thing themselves. I’ve cared for two broken arms, survived a pallet expander and two sets of braces, and endured more roller coaster rides than any motion sickness-prone person should have to. I am a Philadelphia Phillies because my family wore me down. Some of the best books I’ve read recently have been recommended by my kids. The list could go on and on.
As a mom, I take the job of teaching, training, encouraging, and correcting my kids very seriously. But the truth of the matter is, if I want to be the most effective force on my children and remain an important part of their lives, then I need to bend my life towards them. The very act of doing this is changing me. Whether I realize it or not, who my kids are is shaping who I am. And that is OK with me.
At Fallingwater this spring – per Buddy’s request.