My Role as a Mother
The last few weeks of my life have filled me with self-reflection and memories. My son’s long-term girlfriend informed him she wanted to end their relationship. She did this on Valentine’s Day right after a long romantic dinner and gift exchange. I have no doubt that my son will eventually move past the initial pain and trauma of this failed relationship and get on with his life. He sometimes dreams impractical dreams but he has a desire to follow those dreams and it keeps him motivated. I tried to see his girlfriend through his eyes but when I heard her laugh at the idea of having a child I will admit to having to take a deep breath and counting to ten before I said another word about anything.
Two young women in my extended family are going through divorces and dealing with custody issues. One of those two young women gave birth just eight days ago. I have no doubt that the fathers involved in the divorces both love their children. Still, there is a bond between mother and child that no one else can build no matter how hard they try. A mother carries her child for nine months. The child knows her scent, the beat of her heart, and the sound of her voice by the time of the birth. Even adopted children form a bond with their adopted mothers. No other voice or touch ever takes the place of the one that caresses you, comforts you, and sometimes even scolds you when you’re a child.
Being a mother is not always easy. Trust me; there were many mothering moments in my life that were definitely not “Kodak” moments. For instance, every year on Christmas Eve I ended up at the local emergency room with my daughter. Her nerves got the best of her as Christmas Day approached and she would begin vomiting on Christmas Eve. I never had to worry about her catching Santa in the act as he delivered packages. He had always been down the chimney and was gone by the time we made it back home in the wee hours of Christmas morning. By the time she was seven years-old the nursing staff had a small gift waiting for her when we got there.
Her father was never much help when she was throwing up. In fact, if he came within eye sight of her vomiting, he quickly headed for another bathroom in the house to throw up himself. I won’t even mention the lovely shade of green he took on when the scent of a freshly filled diaper hit the air anywhere within a few feet of him.
One day my son was playing in the neighbor’s yard and I heard him scream out in pain. I saw him fall to the ground and as I headed in that direction he got to his feet, grabbed the back of his head, and started toward me. No one really knew how but apparently there was a large rock wedged in a tree in the neighbor’s yard. There was a group of children playing hide-and-seek and when my son ran to touch the tree they were using as home base, the rock fell and smashed into the back of his head. I’m not talking about a small rock either.
I immediately grabbed a white towel, soaked it with ice cold water, and placed it on the back of his head. Blood soaked the towel immediately and my son looked at me and said, “Mom, am I going to die?”
“Not on my watch, Son,” I said with false confidence. I ushered him to the vehicle and was headed off to the hospital before his father was even sure of what had happened. Eighteen stitches later we returned home to find his father sitting at the dining room table staring at the rock that had hit my son in the head. I wanted to crush the rock with a sledge hammer. His father wanted to take it to work and show everybody what had come out of a tree and hit his son in the head. Men and women think on different wave lengths.
I’ve been the one who nursed broken hearts, upset stomachs, and helped to hide a blemish that developed the morning senior portraits were to be done. I’ve heard doors slammed in frustration, eased self-doubts in teenagers, and cried with my children when they were hurting either physically or emotionally. I have given talks and lectures about the birds and the bees and sat with tear filled eyes explaining death.
I have also been the one to call my children to the mat when they did something dumb or tried to make excuses when there were no excuses for what they had done. I’ve helped them through selfish periods, bouts of immaturity, temper tantrums, and vulnerability. I’ve doled out discipline and I’ve handed out bandages, hugs, and compassion as needed.
I’m not saying their father didn’t love them. I’m just saying that fathers tend to react differently to things than women do. God left the task of motherhood to women for a reason. Women are nurturers and caretakers by nature. Men are normally the providers and the protectors.
All of my children, the ones I birthed and the ones I gave my heart to by choice, have been blessings to me and each one of them have been my reason for getting up every day and trying to make the world a better place for all of us.
Most women bring children into this world because children give back the love you give them without being disgusted by your flabby arms or your ten year-old car. With a child in your life the world doesn’t seem quite so unfriendly. I knew my role as a mother meant I had a chance to teach my children tolerance, compassion, and how to think outside of the box. I knew I had to teach my children to make good choices about how to make their place in the world a happy place. My own children are adults now but I still possess my mothering instincts.
The young women I have here with me during this dark spot in their lives are both good mothers. I see it when I watch them with their children. I have watched this young mother with the eight day-old infant change every diaper, prepare every bottle, and hold the baby to her chest to comfort the infant and herself.
To be needed, to have someone who needs you to hold them, to have someone to guide through life and learn from your mistakes and teach you as they make new mistakes is what being a parent is all about. What could I do except welcome these young mothers into my home and my heart? I could do nothing else because I will be a mother to the world until I take my last breath. I would have it no other way!
© Dianna Doles Petry