The Little Man rolled out of bed and hit the ground talking this morning. “Would you buy me cookie dough mix?”
“So I can make cookies.”
“Why not from scratch?”
“I don’t think you want me making cookies from scratch.”
“Yes, I do. Why do you need cookies? Did you commit to making cookies for school?”
“Yes, two dozen tomorrow and two dozen Friday.”
“Ok. I’ll help you.”
And with that I got a kiss on the top of the head and he wandered off to get ready for school while I turned back to the blank page where I had just been starting a blog. You see, last night I also was musing on the privilege of motherhood, as I took an hour of my evening to sit quietly and draw while I was being the Junior Mad Scientist’s security blanket. She needed to do a thing, but couldn’t bring herself to do it on her own, so she asked if I could come with her. Yes, I could and did, but as I explained to her, I was just going to be there. It was up to her to do the work. Which she did, and the next time she did it, she’ll do it on her own. I got her over the hard part, like a catalyst in a chemical reaction.
The other day the Ginja Ninja and I were talking about history – how at one point I’d left a job, because it was interfering with the children’s happiness. “I’m sorry…” she started to say. “No, it’s ok. I was happy to do it, because it made you kids happier and healthier at the time. It was what needed to be done.” It was, in short, a mother’s privilege to arrange her life around her children. Not to hover over them, or to try and shape them into something they weren’t, but to support them and care for them with the ultimate goal of seeing them succeed in whatever they attempt. When I sit down in the kitchen tonight with the boy to make cookies, I won’t be the one ‘making’ them. I’ll be supervising, talking him through it, explaining why I do some of the things I do when I bake, so he can learn how to do it on his own next time. Next Christmas he’ll be able to fly solo. Although I hope to be working shoulder-to-shoulder with him as there are few greater joys in a mother’s life.
This is the privilege of being a mother: you give up small things. Goals, dreams, aspirations fall by the wayside to be replaced. That sounds like it’s a painful and degrading process, doesn’t it? A young woman who hasn’t had a good understanding of motherhood might recoil from the prospect of giving up what she wanted for herself in return for… what? I’ll tell you what. You get back so much more than you could have dreamed possible. The rewards of motherhood are the great privileges of it, and for all that you might have sacrificed, you find that the feeling of your son’s careless affection when he’s on the brink of manhood fills up any void you might think you’ll have. Because it’s been filled, over and over, a mother’s heart. From the first time you hold that tiny bundle of warm soft baby, to the time when the toddler comes to you in tears for a kiss that really does make it all better. You’ll break your heart with worry over the listlessness of a teen who doesn’t seem ready to succeed at life, only to discover that she really is trying, and moving toward goals all her own.
Mother’s privilege. You get to hold them and feel their hot sweaty foreheads while they whine in the middle of the night because they don’t understand why you can’t fix this the way you fill their empty belly with good food. You get to yell ‘pants! you have to wear pants! in exasperation for the hundredth time, and then in a short time flash later, you get to admire the spiffy dude in his suit and tie. You get to pry your fingers off the dashboard and hope you haven’t dented the floorboards while ungritting your teeth to say ‘good job on that last turn, but remember you need to Slow Down.” You get to wash the unending pile of dishes, and laundry, and you get to laugh yourself silly when they put googly eyes on the robot vacuum and want to strap a knife to it, too. You get to introduce them to your music, and listen to theirs too. You get to sit through, or at least listen to, all the children’s shows over and over and over… and then you get to watch them play in the band, poised and composed and making beautiful music.
Being a mother is a wonderful privilege. Yes, you give up a lot. But what you get back is worth infinitely more than you could have imagined as a callow girl. It’s not all easy. I won’t tell you that, because that would be a lie. There are days you want to throw up your hands and run screaming into the night. But you don’t, because they need you, and only you will do, and it’s a privilege to be their mother. So I’ll keep on with the drawing in the corner, content to be a security blanket when I’m needed, knowing that all too soon they will be flying free and solo, and I’ll have all the time in the world to do the things I’ve wanted to do. While missing them badly. Because you never stop being a mother, I’m told. I’m glad for that.