“Of all the rights of women, ?the greatest is to be a mother.”
– Lin Yutang, ?Chinese writer
My son, now almost 10, had a bright blue baseball cap he wore every day from the time he starting walking at an early 9 months to the day we lost it on a hiking trip more than two years later with those words embroidered in small capital letters across the back.
I know that because the back was about all I ever saw of him as he ran through the house upending push toys and unshelving books, videos, CDs and anything else that may have a had a proper place. It was a similar scene on the playground, where we spent more than an hour a day to save the wear and tear on the house – me struggling to keep up, but losing stubborn baby weight in the process, as he clambered, toddled, laughed, squealed and ran up and down the stairs, across the swaying bridges and up and down the slides of the neighborhood PlayScape.
“Lead the way, buddy,” I’d tell him. “I’ll be there to catch you if you fall.”
While he was the one with the cool title on his hat, I took it as my job description – and still do.
Vowing to give my own kids – 9, 7 and 18 months – every opportunity I had and the option to pursue every opportunity I never had, has meant an at times chaotic balance between regular schoolwork, homework, music lessons, swimming lessons, football, cheerleading, baseball, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and youth group, especially since both my husband and I made a commitment to volunteer as leaders, coaches and team parents.
Throw the youngest – who is clearly more active, bright, charming and mischievous than her older siblings ever thought of being – into the mix, along with a playful husky and two ankle-rubbing cats, and every day is a wonder and a marvel.
Idealized notions of a neat and tidy home worthy of a Better Homes and Gardens centerfold were swept under the rug with the Cheerios and wafting tufts of pet fur – don’t even look in the sink or the laundry room. Being able to work from home and be an involved parent is a dream come true – except when it’s an hour and 20 minutes to deadline and the baby shows no signs of weariness and instead, seems particularly determined to shut me down by closing the computer on my hand, disconnecting the power cord and pressing the power button. Not to mention the time I caught her plucking the keys off the keyboard with a mechanical pencil.
It’s no wonder there are times I can’t put two sentences together.
She can go from zero to tabletop or zero to cat food strewn all over the kitchen floor in approximately 10 seconds.
Funny how the very little beings who warm your heart and bring a smile to your face with an enthusiastic hug, a gentle word or a flash of creative genius can, less than a minute – or even half a minute – later, spurn yet another gray hair.
Kids are a walking, talking rollercoaster ride. And you’ve got to be ready for anything.
Up one minute.
Up, up, way up, talking so quickly I can barely understand a word he’s saying about how he’s going to catch the ever-elusive legendary Pokemon in the handheld game he has his nose buried in every other second he’s not doing homework or playing sports.
My second-grader indicates she has big plans for an art project. “Do we have any tape?”
Ten minutes later she comes out of the office with a handful of paper dolls, trees, flowers and small buildings. I couldn’t be more proud.
I find golf ball- to baseball-sized wads of tape when I vacuum two days later.
Down the next.
One wrong word and salvageable teachable moments end in slamming doors or wracking sobs. My son, normally very easy-going, was so upset about something going on at school – I thought he was just trying to get out of a spelling test or something – that when I told him to get ready for school, no ifs, ands or buts, he literally threw his music folder – at me.
Now, I’m normally fairly easygoing myself, not one to make a lot of waves, as they say, but, while I’m no “Mama Grizzly,” I will stand up for my kids when it’s necessary.
I told my son I understand that he has it kind of tough being the oldest – the first to do everything – in the family, and the only boy, but that his two younger sisters, especially the youngest one, are very lucky to have such a thoughtful, caring and hard-working older brother, such a strong role model.
I told my oldest daughter that she’s a naturally talented and gifted artist and writer, a strong and independent thinker, a tremendous helper – she’ll be an awesome mom herself one day – and a super cool, trendy and fun older sister.
I told them both not to kill each other over the baby’s toy. They both wanted to play with it.
Meanwhile, the baby has started to cry, loudly. She wants the toy herself and needs a diaper, a hug and some milk before bed.
“Diaper? Milk?” I ask.
She coos and plops herself down on the floor in a prone position.
Motherhood: It’s all about finding the right words.
But the sink’s still full of dishes.
Andrea Rose is a writer who lives in Lebanon with her husband and ?three children.
Nathan, 9, Cammie, 7, Abby, 18 months, and mom Andrea Rose on Mount Battie at Camden Hills State Park last year. Sharing a love for music, the arts, sciences, sports and especially the outdoors is a big part of her role as a mom.