We were eating at Al’s Beef. I was finished and had the idea to go outside and take a picture through the window of Hayden sitting at the bar. I envisioned I would get a full shot of him with his hot dog sitting on the high counter along with the interior of Chicago’s most popular Italian beef restaurant.
I didn’t count on none of that happening and instead getting a shot of only his face with the reflection of me and the parking lot.
I was pleasantly surprised with the quirky shot while I was reviewing it on my camera and then thought it would have been even cooler if we had been eating at the Al’s Beef in town instead of in the ‘burbs so I could have gotten the beautiful buildings and city activity in the reflection. Exhausted when we returned to Houston, I waited a couple of weeks before transferring the pictures from my camera to their forever cyber home where they have quietly remained.
When I started thinking about the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday this picture came into my mind. I believe it is the perfect depiction of motherhood. It may not seem so at first glance, but if you take the time to really look you’ll see what being a mom is really about.
We’ve all heard that being a mom is like living with your heart outside of your body. Your kids are your most precious gift and every time they get hurt or disappointed, excited or joyous, you feel it straight in the core of your being, too. But I’ve realized motherhood is more complicated than this. It is the ever-changing journey that all mom’s walk from fresh-faced newbie to well-worn veteran, encompassing much more than just that heart-outside-your-chest metaphor.
That’s because mom’s are forced to face everything they love about themselves and everything they hate about themselves on a regular basis. Constantly, to be exact. Children are a direct reflection of their parents; you can’t help but see yourself in your kids. And if you aren’t comfortable with yourself, having a child who mirrors you in even the tiniest way can be humbling.
Each day that I have a conversation with my first grader, I am staring at the same freckles that I spent hours wishing away from my skin. They are just starting to appear on his nose, like mine did before they spread from head to toe, and if I’m not careful I experience the same, familiar feeling of insecurity well up inside of me just as I did as a kid. I love them on my son; they are part of what makes him unique and beautiful. Seeing the beauty of them on him has helped me to accept them on me. I am no longer insecure about my freckles but, instead, I’m actually happy to have such an obvious physical characteristic for everyone to see. If it weren’t for my middle son, who’s the only one blessed with this trait, I’d still be that insecure girl inside this 36-year-old woman’s body.
When I hear my oldest son laugh it warms me up inside and immediately puts a smile on my face. He could be right next to me or in his room with the door closed, it doesn’t matter, I always smile when I hear it. It is the same loud, hearty laugh that he has had since he was a baby bouncing in his bouncy seat, only it’s gotten a little deeper, a little louder, and a little longer as he’s grown. It’s a very similar laugh to mine. The one that sometimes makes me cringe when I hear it. The one that makes me embarrassed at times. The one that makes me start criticizing myself for sounding obnoxious. But when I start to do this, I think of my 9-year-old and how much I love hearing his laugh. I am reminded of how many people he makes happy by just hearing him laugh and how very special I am that I was able to pass along that gift to him. The power to make others happy, even if it’s just for a moment, without even saying a word. That’s an amazing ability.
There have been countless nights I’ve spent sitting on my youngest son’s bed trying to comfort him about the events of the past day or reassure him about the events of the following day. Kid’s thrive on routine, but my littlest takes it to a whole other level. He likes to know what is going to happen and when so he is ready for it. He’s terrified of getting a color change in school so he does everything exactly as his teacher says. If he manages to get away with doing something he shouldn’t have, he obsesses about it at home causing him many sleepless nights until he finally confesses it to his teacher. He’s a little OCD about school just like I was. I see the worry on his face and I remember what it felt like. I try to reassure him and comfort him and it helps him a little. It makes me think back to my own OCD behavior as a kid and realize how unnecessary it all was, how difficult I made everything, and how much joy I missed out on because I was so constantly worried about what would happen next. It is a challenge I still frequently face with my Type A personality, but helping him through it has helped me through it. I recognize that there are many benefits, like a great work ethic and conscientious heart, as long as it is balanced with presence.
I believe our kids are our greatest teachers and our greatest form of therapy. I’ve realized that motherhood is really about forgiving yourself for who you once were, accepting yourself for who you are now, and loving yourself no matter what the circumstances. Exemplifying this is the greatest gift we can give back to our wise little teachers.
Happy Mother’s Day to all.