As I’ve grown older, my short term memory has grown worse. So much so that I actually asked my doctor if early onset Alzheimer’s was a possibility. His response was, no, you’re a mom. That was all he said, but I knew what he meant. Lack of sleep, juggling numerous to-dos… it’s taxing. My long term memory, however, is solid, vivid, and unwavering.
As my son grows, I find myself reflecting on my childhood memories, and specifically, on my mom. Now that I’m a parent, I have a new perspective, the parent perspective — one of unconditional love.
When I was very little, and my mom was working full time, I remember greeting her every evening as she walked through the front door with a yell.
I would race to the door to greet her, jump up and give her a big hug, and she would pick me up with a huge smile across her face. At some point, as I grew, that stopped. I don’t know why. Perhaps I just thought I was too grown for such enthusiasm. But one day, when my mom came home from work, I simply looked up and said, “Hi” and went back about my business. I didn’t know it then, of course, but my mom admitted some years later that the first day she came home from work and I stopped jumping up to greet her, was the first day I broke her heart.
Over the years, I’m sure I broke my mom’s heart in a lot of little ways.
Like when I dressed myself for the first time and proclaimed
I don’t need your help, I’m a big girl!
When I held hands with a boy for the first time and called him my boyfriend. When I went on my first date in high school with a college boy. When I moved out of the house, went to college myself, and stopped talking to her as much (because my blossoming independence was all-consuming). On some level, I knew that my actions hurt my mom. But I also knew that she was proud of me, and that despite the heartbreak she must have felt, she never hesitated to say how proud she was, or how much she loved me.
I took my mom for granted, though. My mom has been my true constant. She has always been there for me, always, no matter what, through thick or thin.
I knew she loved me unconditionally, and there was nothing I could do that would make her leave my side. Me, however, I left her, without hesitation. That’s just what baby birds do. We grow up, we leave the nest, and we fly away to make a nest of our own.
A couple of years ago, my brother passed away suddenly.
He struggled making safe choices as an adult, and my mom stood by his side through all of it, endlessly devoted to her baby boy. I used to be critical of my mom for being so patient, so forgiving, so blindly loving. I just couldn’t understand. Now I realize that a mother’s devotion doesn’t stop when her child doesn’t become the person she had hoped. You hope for the best, but you love through the worst. That is a mother’s gift—unconditional love, and it was a gift I received the day my son was born.
Now that I’m a mother, I see it all so clearly. My son is only two years-old. He still holds me tight, cries for me, and insists on my constant presence. But I know what lies ahead, and that inevitability brings tears to my eyes in a matter of seconds. Because now that I’m a mom, I have that parent perspective, one I could never know in my naive youth, one that is built on a love I could not have understood then either.
I love my mom in ways I’ll probably never be able to communicate, and yet I am still certain that there is nothing quite like the love between a parent and their child.
While my son grows, and his independence grows along with him, I won’t ever want to stop being his doting “momma.” I won’t ever want to stop smothering his cheeks with kisses, long after he rolls his eyes in annoyance. I know that someday he won’t show enthusiasm when I walk through the front door. Someday, he’ll move away and maybe even avoid my calls, and that thought stings my fragile mother heart.
Growing up is a bittersweet notion. My job is to raise a decent human who is capable and can thrive on his own. It’s a huge responsibility, and if I am lucky, and if I still have my wits about me, I’ll know that despite the terrible ache my empty nest leaves me, his departure will be in large part a measure of my success. Until that time, I’ll take all the hugs, kisses, and hand holding I can get. It makes my heart full – so full that when the time comes and my heart begins to break a little, I’ll be grateful in knowing it could never break without having been so immeasurably and unconditionally full.
In honor of Mother’s Day, lets give a huge shout out to all the moms (past and present) who showed their unconditional love, time and time again. Mom, thank you, to the moon.