Just over twenty-seven years ago, when I launched myself into parenthood, I had only a vague idea of what it meant to be a mom. I was working full-time at a public accounting firm in Chicago, supporting myself and my husband, who was a law student at the University of Chicago. When we found out we were expecting – before our first wedding anniversary (ahem, early bird catches the worm, I guess) – I had visions of spending long hours gazing adoringly at my darling newborn, who I pictured smiling up at me through sleepy eyes. She would nurse contentedly, and then fall back asleep soundly in her crib.
I would dress her in perfect little pink outfits.
She would coo and gurgle at me.
I could practically smell the baby powder.
Bahahahahahaha!!!!! Never happened!
Reality being something short of that ideal, the stacks of books I’d bought – anticipating the hours of free time I’d have to read (because, what else would you do with a newborn all day??) – sat neatly stacked while the rest of my life devolved into chaos. Rob and I were all of twenty-five years old and had absolutely no experience with newborns. We were a half a country away from our family and friends on the west coast, and …
Why was she having so much trouble breastfeeding?
Why didn’t she ever sleep?
What was this rash she had all over he face???
I hadn’t a clue.
In 1988, there was no such thing as paternity leave, and even if there had been, my husband was a law student. He took off the day our daughter was born.
My maternity leave was all of six weeks before I had to kiss my precious little girl goodbye and put her in someone else’s arms for ten hours a day. Definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a mom.
Somehow we managed to adjust to parenthood well enough that we added three more children to the mix.
It has been exhausting, frustrating, sometimes overwhelming, and nearly always expensive. But it has been the ride of my life, and I would not have missed it for anything!
These four people – three of them adults, one still living at home – are the reason I was born. I was meant to be their mother. They thrill me. They make me prouder than I ever dreamed I could be. I am in awe of them.
Their respective lists of accomplishments are so long it’s humbling to me. I attribute most of their worldly successes to their own hard work and the genes they inherited from their father.
Our oldest daughter was student body president at the University of Washington (just like dad was) and is now in her second year of law school at Stanford.
Our second daughter graduated with two degrees from Seattle University and is headed to graduate school this fall at dad’s alma mater, the University of Chicago.
Our oldest son is a talented jazz musician and was admitted to the University of Washington business school right out of high school.
Our youngest is quiet … right up until he sets foot on a stage, where he is a triple threat as a talented singer, actor and dancer.
Like I said, they receive accolades wherever they go. But more than any of that, I am so proud of the amazing people they have become. Kind, thoughtful and generous, yes. But they are also fiercely independent, unapologetically outspoken and wickedly funny. I claim no expertise in the whole “nature vs. nurture” debate, but no matter which one is more important, I feel incredibly fortunate to have played some small part in bringing these amazing people into the world.
Fortunately, we’ve still got a long way to go with them. We’ll have more graduations in our future, and hopefully some day marriages and grandchildren.
I suppose I know now what I could not possibly have known, all those years ago when I was anticipating the birth of my first child: these precious lives are a gift, given to us to tend and cherish. They are as much our teachers as we are theirs. And what every mom knows is, that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.