Mother's Day is coming up this weekend. This will be my 5th Mother's Day. My first Mother's Day I was pregnant with our oldest child, and I had no real idea what motherhood meant for me. I was about 5 months pregnant, and was just starting to realise that motherhood was going to be a big part of my new. I was just starting to show (oh the miracle of first pregnancies... I started to show around 2 weeks pregnant every pregnancy since) and my little bump was already making it awkward for me to walk without bumping into things. The nausea had subsided (thank heavens I had it all while working an office job and not my labour intensive job I had from about 5 months on), but they had been replaced with weird food and smell aversions (hilarious now when you think of the half-chewed food I've eaten and the smelly diapers I've changed), exhaustion, and a wardrobe that wasn't expanding as fast as my belly.
In the 5 years since that first Mother's Day, I've learned so much that I couldn't have imagined in those endless days of pregnancy. I've let a lot of worries go, but also have become more militant about others. I've learned it's worth getting smeared in peanut butter (or tomato sauce, or paint) to get a hug or a kiss from my kids. I've learned that giving them every physical they want in no way comes close to a moment of my full attention. I've learned how very aware they are of everything I do. I've been reading articles about this for years, but there's something about the first time your child repeats something you've been saying without thinking that it hits you like a ton of bricks. ("Baby girl is chillin', Mommy. Not illin'." Oh Lord, why did I ever talk like that in the first place??) I've learned that who I choose to share a playdate with can make a big difference in their lives. Friends who are excited to see them, even when they don't know how to play together yet, gives them a sense of self-confidence a million Mom hugs can't. (Also, they can learn cool expressions from their friend's Moms, like "Oh Snap!". True story!) I've learned that you can find out so much about a child by listening to them, even when it sounds like nonsense at first. I've learned TV can be your best friend or your greatest enemy, depending on the day of the week. I've learned the difference between a whine, scream, shrill laugh, moan and straight out purple cry, and how to manage each (most of the times). I've learned that I'm often not right, but that my kids are very forgiving as I figure things out with them. I've learned that love always has room to grow.
I think the thing that surprised me the most is that love, which I've always considered as a kind of abstract concept for me, really is something tangible. Now that I have kids, I realise in a way I never could have imagined that love has a face, well, 4 little faces. There are days when my patience is wearing thing and I lose my temper, but the second I look into their big wide eyes, it melts my heart. I would do anything to make each one of my kids happy and safe. When I hear one of them cry out in the middle of the night, my heart still leaps into my throat, living in a flash a million possibilities of what could be the problem (Did she have a nightmare? Did he fall out of bed? Are her legs twisted out of the crib? Is his blood sugar low? Or something worse...?). They have taught me what real, unconditional, endless love is all about. Love that started before I even had a positive pregnancy test. Love that keeps me up at night. Love that makes me want to be a better person so that when they look at me, they see someone they can love too.
I love the idea that on Mother's Day we chose to celebrate Moms. I'm right there with the world wanting to say my thanks to my own Mom who is, without a doubt, my personal hero for so many reasons. That being said, when it comes to my own family, I think of Mother's Day as a time to be grateful for my children. Thank them for challenging me, inspiring me, and teaching what love looks like.