In the latter years while raising my children, there were glimpses of clarity as I realized what all my mother shared with me throughout my life, the love, the difference she made. But it wasn't until my children were grown and gone that I began to truly realize and appreciate what being a mother ultimately means. What it may have meant to my mother.
It is to pour your heart, your very soul, into these little people for most of your adult life. It is to give up things and activities, to put your former life on hold, to change expectations (pretty much daily) and to change priorities. It is to transition from calm to terrified in the blink of a phone call, to work hours that would be outlawed if at a paid job. It is to live with sleep deprivation for long stretches, to clean up puke and shit and to take care of yourself last. For many of us, this crazy life is accomplished as a single parent during those few hours before and after working a full time job.
To be a mother is to find some of your most precious joys to be a little face looking into yours and saying, "I love you, Mommy." A tiny arm wrapped around your neck, little kisses from sticky lips, the sweet scent of baby toes, a first step, smudgy drawings. It is to fall in love at first sight and to feel a depth of love and emotion that you could never have imagined until that sweet moment when you first hold your infant in your arms. It is to gaze into the face of innocent new life. A life that is in your hands and forever in your heart.
It is to grow with them. And then it is to let them go.
It's a difficult and painful opportunity that we sign up for and one that I can count, with gratitude, as my most important achievement. There's no amount of freedom, money, possessions, time or opportunity that could hold a candle to the gifts I've enjoyed for over 40 years. For me, it's the love and the thousands of treasured moments that I've been allowed to share with my children.
Those wonderful moments continue as they graciously share their lives with me now, as adults.