A bit over twenty years ago I was a relatively new bride enjoying the carefree life of a newlywed who side-by-side with my dreamy husband could blow $100 a week on sit-down dinners, getaway on vacations that required travel by plane or ship, stepped out in clothing that were form fitting, and decorated my home with breakable baubles that coordinated beautifully with our pristine, white sofa!
While the perks of this easygoing lifestyle may have seemed enticing to casual observers, there was definitely one thing missing during most of this time and it wasn’t having my own juicer, it was the painful absence of being called “mom”.
We knew we wanted children soon after we tied the knot, but never imagined it would be easier to catch a greased pig than it would be to get pregnant. The years went by and instead of holding a newborn swaddled in sweetness I held on to a tiny shred of hope—that someday I would finally be some lucky child’s mother. And I took it one step further by imagining all the wonderful, inspiring and cutting edge ways I was going to parent once it finally did happen. I mean there was just no way a phrase like “You’ll do it because I’m your mother and I said so” was going to escape my lips!
I was obviously very good at grasping on to hope because I clutched so tightly I didn’t get just one chance to try out this role of motherhood I wanted so desperately, I got 8 opportunities, and presently they range in ages from 17 down on to 5. All that precise daydreaming I did before the stork arrived disappeared into thin air when I realized that my adorable children had minds of their own, not to mention I was going to have to compromise with my husband on some of his parenting beliefs—eek!
Looking back to the beginning of all those newborn days, the top item on my mommy agenda was love and kindness. Don’t worry, I’m not going to nauseate you with any Pollyanna-type parenting philosophy I promise. I’m simply talking unconditional love for each child even when they innocently reveal my deepest, darkest secrets to one of their teachers like how I don’t change their sheets every week or how I steal candy from their Halloween bags and blame it on the dog.
Of course, I was also never, ever going to raise my voice, get aggravated over silly things like ball playing inside the house, serve meals like tuna casserole, or worse, begin dressing in ensembles with stretchy waistbands or embroidered sweater vests.
I found out soon enough, however, that although such trivial things seemed to be so important at the time, they paled in comparison to the pivotal moments where I found rock-solid strength and courage due to circumstances that were beyond my mothering control. One such time was when our 6th child was hospitalized for weeks after nearly dying from whooping cough at the young age of 2 months old. I kept God very busy during that ordeal, but the two gifts I received at the end—my son’s full recovery and learning how to trust and live in the moment have been accruing interest in my mother bank account all these years later.
And as any parent with a special needs child can tell you when you first receive a heart wrenching diagnosis—it’s just not fair! Or so I thought at first. Three of our children had significant speech delays when they were very young in fact we were even told one was autistic. Talk about ruining my best laid plans of having perfect children that were going to change the world with the amazing, ingenious things they would contribute. Well, they’ve already done just that, and they started with me, their determined mother who alongside my husband worked my stretchy-pant buns off to help them overcome these delays, one precious and very long day at a time, and now I wouldn’t change a thing (well, maybe just the stretchy pants!) about that trying time in our lives. Watching them break through so many barriers to utter simple words that many parents might take for granted added traits like resilience, patience and faith into my motherhood foundation, qualities that will hopefully mature as my kids continue to grow.
Now I’m experiencing the teenage years with my four oldest and have been enduring, I mean enjoying, driver’s permits, acne, boyfriend troubles, and having to finally eat my words of saying “because I said so” one too many times. The times I think I’m doing everything wrong can be undone in a heartbeat like when one of my daughters asks if she can borrow something from my closet—the ultimate of compliments!
Motherhood is indeed not the romantic journey I dreamed it would be all those years that I waited and longed for my turn to come and for that I am grateful! In a few weeks we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day and as I do every year, I will quietly look around the table at my family sitting together and give thanks for the gift of children and for my ability to experience motherhood in a completely different way than I ever thought I would. Oh, and my family—they’ll be giving thanks also—that not once in 23 years have I ever served tuna casserole.
Copyright 2010 Cheryl Butler