Things becoming a mother taught me about mine

When I look into my mom’s beautiful blue eyes this Mother’s Day there are things I know now that I never could’ve understood until I became a mom three years ago.

As I watch my mother gain wrinkles with age, I understand that each one is a badge of honor. Maybe it was a sleepless night when my sister or I couldn’t sleep as babies. Maybe it was a worry that my father would grow tired of her as age began to take its toll. Maybe it was the knowledge that one day my sister and I would still be here when God decided her time with us was up.

It’s almost become a cliché that having children is like watching a piece of your heart walk around outside your body, and it’s true. But it’s so much more than that. It’s leaving a piece of yourself behind when you’ve left this world.

I now think of what it was like for my mom thirty-plus years ago to wonder and worry what my sister and I would become, and I now wonder how much those memories have faded for her with age. Does she remember what it was like to hold on and hug us just a little tighter each night knowing we were growing so big we would soon no longer fit on her lap in the wooden rocking chair that creaked with every sway? Does she remember what it was like to have us fall asleep on the couch laying on her chest even though we were entirely too big to still do it? I remember it. I remember listening to her heart beat inside her chest, like the most calming lullaby she ever could have sang to me. I remember all those things like they were yesterday, even though wrinkles have started to line my eyes.

Now I wonder, will I always remember what that felt like? And will my kids remember those things about me? What I smelled like, what my hair felt like in their tiny little hands?

You go through your entire childhood, adolescence and even young adulthood looking at your mother just as a mother: as if her life and her existence began when you were born. And to some extent, I know now that’s true. She began a new life when my sister and I were born as she tried to figure out what was best for us, how to handle us. As a mom, you never really get a break and you never really get to go back to living life for yourself. It becomes a life lived for that piece outside of you that you hope to keep with you into eternity and that you hope to leave behind.

As I look into her beautiful blue eyes I know what was really behind every “no”, why she pushed us to achieve more, going full throttle into adulthood.

I will never know what my mom was really like before my sister and I came along. I will never know if she went to wild parties in college, if she was the life of those parties or if she loved to stay home and cuddle up with a good book on a Friday night. I will never really know those things about my mom before she was a mom.

But now that I am a mom, I look at her differently somehow. I look at her as a person, a human being. I look at her as a part of me that she will leave behind as I walk around and carry her heart inside my chest. All the sacrifices she made for me, all the gymnastics meets she sat through, the cheerleading camps she drove me to, the scholarship applications she made sure I filled out, the coaching for my senior class play auditions. She was probably bored as hell doing all of them. But she did them for me.

As I look at my babies and think I can’t possibly love anything more, I know her beautiful blue eyes once looked down at me the exact same way. And today, that’s probably no different. Because I know for damn sure my love for my little ones will never change. But until you have a baby and look down at him or her with those same loving eyes, you don’t really appreciate what it means to look up into them.

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