It’s Mother’s Day, and everything in me is swirling this year, as our oldest gets ready to graduate high school this week.
I find myself waking up in the night. Have I helped to secure in her the compass she will need to navigate this world? Have I helped her learn to silence the noise so that she can use her head and listen to her heart? Have I taught her the lessons she needs to know? To be soft to all that is beautiful and yet tough enough to navigate things when it is not?
Mother’s Day brings out a lot every year: flash backs to pregnancies, baby years, toddlerhood, funny stories, sleepless night and the friends and families that have seen us through. This morning my husband asked me what my favorite motherhood memories are: really, just the times when all of us were together. That, and telling him we were pregnant with our first. He was shaving in our tiny bathroom in the rental we lived in. I still remember the “Whoop!” he let out.
This year, I’m really thankful for the friends and family that have seen us through. We tend to see a lot of perfection across social media feeds, as if motherhood is a perfectly straight line through the years, but life is actually full of curve balls, and some of the best advice I ever received was “Your happiness in life will depend on how you handle the curve balls.” Motherhood is full of them in the 21st century. The advice came from my boss when I worked on the fixed income desk back in the finance world. She was probably 50 at the time, also a mom, and man, she knew what she was talking about. I remember it so clearly.
What I’ve learned is that if you are going to successfully field those curve balls, you need a good team.
If one thing is certain, life throws us curve balls. We’ve been dealt ours, and I’ve watched parents navigate some of the hardest ones out there. Some have been dealt a condition or diagnosis like pediatric cancer, some have survived it and others have suffered the immeasurable grief of losing a child. I had a math teacher in high school who once said, “It goes against the laws of nature to lose a child. Parents are supposed to go first, it’s why it’s so impossible for us to accept.” That was another lesson that stuck with me, not just from this teacher, it was because she was also a mom.
And today, I felt really grateful. Because of all of the love and work that goes into it. We have a house full of four teenagers. This last year has been a ride. Some years have been really fun, some really difficult. Raising teens makes raising toddlers feel like a piece of cake. There is so much going on in their world today that is so different to what we experienced: escalating rates of teenage depression, anxiety, suicide, drug use, alcohol use, Juul-ing, social media, social media, social media. Their struggles in their world are very, very real and amplified across social media. I want home to be a safe place for them in the midst of all of that chaos and amplification. A place where they can come in, put down the mask they may or may not feel they have to wear in the world, put down the armor and the shield and rest.
So today, to have them around was all I could ask for when we went out for lunch. The local brunch spot was packed, and they gave the moms a glass of champagne as we came in the door. As I sat there, listening to our teenagers swap stories from their weekends, a family sat at the table beside us.
And suddenly, all of the memories of the toddler years flooded back. But in a different way, as I watched the mom beside me. She had a three year old daughter in a sundress and little cowboy boots, and she had a baby boy on her lap. He wore glasses, and due to my friendship with an extraordinary mother of four who works on inclusion issues for children with Down’s Syndrome, I knew he had Down’s. He was beautiful and so full of love and such a handful as any 10 month old baby is going to be. Her patience was incredible, and her love so limitless for her little man. I wanted to tell her about my friend Beth whose son Patrick was heading off to college this year, but I didn’t want to interfere, so I kept to myself and simply watched her love him.
As that family turned to go, she looked under the table at the mess and bent to pick it up, with him on her hip. How many times did we do that? We’d actually just been reminiscing about it the night before. The endless trail of crumbs. And there she was, doing it on Mother’s Day.
As we headed home, we swung by the post office, so that I could run in and mail a few cards. At the dropbox was a couple, she held an enormous amount of envelopes in her hands, as he stood to take her picture. I walked past, then turned back.
“Are those wedding invitations?” I asked.
They both beamed and exclaimed, “Yes!” “They are!”
“Would you like me to take a picture of both of you mailing them?” It was a Sunday afternoon, the place was empty.
“We would love it,” they said.
As I handed their phone back to them, I asked if the pics were OK, “I could take another”, I said.
She looked at them and turned to him and said, ” You can see my ring!”
So I left.
If you pay attention, you will see that there is so much love in the world. It will help you find the courage you need to do the things you never thought you could.
Pay attention to the love, don’t miss it because you have your head in your phone, or are afraid to say yes to a meeting, or because you’re afraid it’s been too long since you’ve called. Don’t miss it.
And if you don’t see it, keep moving until you do. And if you still don’t see it, create it. It will attract more. You can amplify it.
Love is a rocket fuel, on Mother’s Day and always.