7 things I’ve learned from motherhood

1. After you leave the hospital, in the middle of the night, when the baby won’t sleep…it’s all you. (And your husband, of course, if you’ve got a good one.) But the point is, from now on, when that little face looks around for food, comfort, nurturing…you are the one. And it’s a humbling, beautifully terrifying prospect.

We’ve loved our daughter since the day she was born, but because she came to us in a different way, I’ll never forget this experience:

When she was almost three months old I went to a luncheon. Many of the women there wanted to see and hold her, and she was getting passed around quite a bit. I don’t know if something happened or if she was just getting tired of all the passing, but she began to cry and look around. Finally she found me and her eyes locked on mine; she smiled through her tears as if to say: “Mommy, I found you! Save me!” All I could think of at that moment, was “Oh my gosh, she’s looking for me!” It was an emotional experience for me for obvious reasons. She knew I was her mother. And when she saw me, she knew she would be okay.

(First lesson: you are The One.)

2. Surviving the sleep deprivation.
There were many, many years of no sleep. I really began to wonder if there would be permanent consequences to my constant state of sleepiness. When I look back on the worst of it, I don’t know how I functioned as well as I did. If you’ve been through it, you know it is a tiredness that you feel in your bones. But I did it. And my children survived my groggy crankiness. {And as for the permanent damage, I only twitch and drool a little bit now and then…just kidding, sort of.}

(Second lesson: you can do anything. You are a mother.)

3. Things are always better when seen through a child’s eyes:






I’ll never forget when we took the kids to Disneyland; the first time with all five of them. The oldest was 10 and the baby, 10 months. We got there at night, and we had a multi-day ticket, so we went for the hour or so before the park closed. We were just in time for the big parade. There we were, squished in with all the other hundreds of parents and children who happened to be on that one little corner of the street. I was stressed and frazzled from trying to maneuver our double stroller through the crowds; and I was crazy from trying to keep my extremely active and curious 5- and 6-year-olds from climbing up trees and railings and lamp posts, and from inadvertently wandering away.

But when the music started, and the characters began to leap and dance and sing their way down the street, the children were magically transfixed. I saw the delight and wonder in their eyes. And I stood there witnessing it. In the middle of all those other crazy parents. With tears streaming down my face at the sheer joy of the moment.

(Third lesson: childhood is magical. And for a few short years in between my own childhood and motherhood, I had forgotten for a moment.)

4. Natural consequences are better than forced ones.

One time when our oldest son was about three and a half, we had our first real experience with this one. (It took many other “bonks on our heads” to learn the lesson, but this was the first one that sticks out in my mind.)

It was the fourth of July. We had spent the entire day with several of our good friends; lots of activities and fun. At the end of the day, everyone was at our house for a barbecue before we went off to see the fireworks. My son had misbehaved several times that day with the same behavior and we were becoming increasingly frustrated and angry with him. I’m embarrassed to say what it was, because he was after all, only three–but being the oldest, unavoidably, the parenting “guinea pig.” Just before dinner, he had done it again, and I uttered those fateful words: “If you do it one more time, you are not going to go see the fireworks tonight.”

Even as I said it, I had dim warning bells going off in my brain. “Bad idea, bad idea, don’t do it, what are you saying?!” But it was too late. Already out there on the table: stop or no fireworks. And because I was young and determined to be worth my salt as a mother, I enforced it. And we all watched as our friends left to go see the fireworks. All of us sad. All of us “punished.” None of us learning the intended lesson.

(Fourth lesson: don’t threaten things you don’t want to enforce. Don’t punish yourself.)

5. Time.
A truly strange phenomenon. When you’re young it takes things
f-o-r-e-v-e-r to happen. But when you get old, like me, it’s stuck on hyper-speed. I think maybe it’s because I had my middle three children at such close intervals, that basically they were all in the same stages at the same time. If they had been spread out a little more, maybe it wouldn’t seem like time is such a runaway train that I can never catch. Maybe. But maybe not. I feel like these last three years have gone by in a flash. Three years ago, I had three little boys. And now, that part of their lives is gone. They give me strange looks when I “forget” how old they are and suggest things that only “little kids” would like. It makes me sad. With all the craziness of life, I feel like I missed some of it.

(Fifth lesson: Be in the moment and enjoy the little things. And make note of it. Because when you blink, it will be gone.)

6. Let them grow up.
Boy this one is fully charged with all sorts of emotions.
Happiness, sadness, anxiety, impatience, fear, doubt, pride, laughter, tears…..
(and those are just my emotions.)

You want them to grow up, but you don’t…. but you really do. And it doesn’t really even matter what you want, because they have to anyway. And you have to let them learn hard lessons, and you have to teach them how to deal with different situations, and you have to get them all ready (or as ready as you possibly can) to be a grown-up. But you have to do it in a way so as not to take away any of the magic of their childhood, while still gently urging them onward in their journey so they don’t stay too long in the land of make-believe. It’s a terribly tricky task. {and I hope, I hope, I’m doing okay.}

(Sixth lesson: you have to help them be grown-up people. Because they will anyway, whether you like it or not. And it will make it so much better if you actually like these grown-up people when all is said and done.)

7. Labor doesn’t end in the hospital.
Any mother knows this. It’s just a big brilliant burst of labor there. A little foreshadowing of this life you’ve now signed on for. The work just never ends. Once you think you’ve conquered a problem, a new one springs a leak. So it’s ever onward, tweaking, brainstorming, a little enforcing, teaching, leading, kissing, hugging, scolding, laughing, playing, talking, loving….
And that all gets mixed in with the laundry, dishes, meal preparation, cleaning, driving, sick-watch, bathrooms, tutoring, dusting (oh, who’s kidding who, that one never gets done…) anyway, you get the picture. It’s hard work. And lots of it.

But in the end, it’s all worth it. And I wouldn’t trade any of the hard, for not having had the privilege of being a mother. It’s the very best part of my life. I only have one go-around in this life, and I’m glad and grateful that I get to spend it like this.

(Lesson 7: motherhood is hard and beautiful. And it’s all worth it. Every bit.)

Jenny lives on the east coast with her husband and five terrific kids. Her children say: “she cooks good food, and takes too many pictures.” She likes to eat food that other people cook (preferably, people in restaurants), take pictures, write, shop, spend time with family and to be on vacation. She can be reached at jenny.mom2five@gmail.com.


4 responses to “7 things I’ve learned from motherhood

  1. This was so real and uplifting. Loved the Disneyland moment!

  2. I love your statement, “Labor doesn’t end in the hospital…” You’ve written this beautifully with much insight. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for these words, “Things are always better when seen through a child’s eyes.” It is a a reminder of what never goes away as a parent and then a grandparent. There is always someone who is going through something the first time. And when we open our eyes and watch it with them, we get to learn and live it in a new way. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Boy, this is so spot on. Very poignant, very real. Loved every bit of it.

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