Tonight, I have a story to tell you. This story doesn’t necessarily start out with an epic entrance, it isn’t going to shake the foundations of society or change the world in any way … but it changed my world, for just a moment, and sometimes moments have a large enough impact to resonate. I begin this story by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Men are what their mothers made them.” To this I say, “Thanks Emerson – no pressure there!”
Having (hopefully) read life with me for some time now, you may have gleaned the unbelievably obvious fact that I’m not always the most confident person. Sure I can be good at stuff, but who can’t be good at something? I find that much of my insecurity stems around my most important job, of being a mom. Because if I’m being 100% honest with myself, sometimes I kinda stink at it.
Some moms grow their own herbs … I buy mine. Some moms sew their own clothes … I buy mine. Some moms make their own play dough … I buy mine – are we seeing a trend yet? I don’t love cooking, I’m terrible at laundry, I don’t enjoy gardening, and I rarely bake. I tend to be five minutes behind schedule and we can never seem to get a grip on finding matching socks.
I absolutely adore my kids, and I give them everything I have left – but after a long day of work, that doesn’t always seem like enough. Sometimes I feel that “the best of me” has been used up. Our dinners are usually whatever we have that is quick enough to eat before practice, or after practice when it’s too late to make something “real.” Bath time is a twenty-minute stint to put away some laundry and my husband and I rock-paper-scissors decide who is getting who ready for bed.
By the time I crash, I cannot remember the lunches I packed for the next day, and fall asleep often wondering if my beautiful gifts of children received any of the love they deserved from mommy, or just a kind of robotic organizational routine of one day smoothly running into the next?
It was on one of these eat-quick, get in the car-quick, run out on the field-quick, and watch you practice while I read your sister a book-quick days, that this story begins. About half way through freezing on the damp soccer-blanket, he took a fall. My son … my amazing, “never doesn’t bounce right back up” son was crumpled to the ground. Without hesitating, I ran out onto the field during a scrimmage. Kneeling beside the coach I put a hand on his tear-streaked cheek as he was “searched for injuries.” After a few minutes, the coach helped him to his feet and he hobbled off the field in one direction, while I gave him a reassuring look and walked the other way.
Back on the sidelines with the other mothers, I was able to consume a new batch of inadequacies. Looking for moral support I turned to a few and said, “It was right of me to go out there, wasn’t it? I mean, he was hit really hard and he never goes down. You would have too, right?”
“No,” was the first mom’s reply.
“Probably not, they need to get tough,” was another’s.
“It just seems bad, but see … he’s already back in the game. It’s worse to see it, but you’ll learn that,” someone finalized.
I felt terrible. Here I was, doing the one thing I was certain was right, and it turned out to be wrong. After the game, my son got a trophy for finishing the season. He was still limping, but finished the game strong, and I was so afraid I’d embarrassed him. On our car ride home, I decided to focus on the positive, hoping to redirect his attention to the “glories” of the game and asked what his favorite part of the night had been.
“When you came to me,” he said simply.
And that … changed … everything.
It didn’t matter that he was “fine,” or that he went back into the game a few minutes later. It didn’t matter that he ran fastest or had great assists or played with his friends. In his mind, all that mattered was that I showed up when he needed me most. And so I guess I wasn’t so wrong after all.
I may not be winning mother-of-the-year any time soon, but I’ve begun to let the wisp of an idea curl into my mind that maybe … I don’t have to be. That night, my mothering mistake was the greatest comfort my son experienced and I’d gladly make a fool of myself any time to show him love.
I hope one day my children will think like Alice Walker, who said, “Yes Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me.”
Here’s to many mommy mistakes, made with love.