|Mr. Letters to the World and I last summer|
I was reminded of this fact on Monday, which was the nineteenth wedding anniversary of my husband and I. I was thinking back to myself as the young bride, of my preoccupations, my prejudices, my notions of how life and love should be, my ideas of how my future would pan out. I said my vows with conviction and opened our gifts with gusto. We would wait a year or two before we thought about children and space them responsibly. My husband would do exactly half of everything and our kids would never misbehave in the grocery store. By the fall I was pregnant.
At my first visit to the doctor, I'm not sure what I expected - a reproof? - but my doctor said my pregnancy was great news. Women who had their first child under thirty had greatly reduced risks of breast cancer and birth defects, healthier pregnancies and easier births overall. What was that he said about 'healthier pregnancies?" I would think as I endured alternating waves of voracious hunger and horrible nausea most of the time. Looking back, I think it was all a preparation for motherhood. The birth of our first son went very well, was not too long, and little baby Ian took to feeding immediately. Caring for a tiny, needy, hungry infant seemed almost easy in comparison with the everpresent nausea and back pain of pregnancy, but what really surprised me was the incredible happiness I felt at suddenly finding myself a mother. My husband was a real hands-on kind of dad, even though at first, every time Ian cried my husband said, "I think he's hungry."
Becoming a mother made my life make sense for some reason. To cement that point, we had another son fifteen months later and a daughter two and a half years after that. And another daughter five years after that. I took to motherhood like a fish to water, well, a fish that sometimes loses its temper and has occasional mini nervous breakdowns, but overall I was happy being 'Mommy'. Our family was a little world of our own where love reigned supreme and naps came a close second. Books and birthdays, bike rides and soccer practise, homeschooling first, then public school (and lessons in learning to accept each others differences) filled up the days, the years, and now, almost two decades.
"Enjoy your children while they are little. They grow up too fast," said my Italian neighbour wistfully and often when we lived in Kimberly with the boys before their sisters were born. Her regular shouting matches with her grown up son when he visited could be heard all the way down the block.
She does it a bit at a time, learning as she goes. She works on her patience, she learns (stubbornly sometimes) to give without keeping score or counting the cost. She knows her investment now will pay off later, or at least she has faith that it will, so she gives mothering everything she's got - but reasonably. She keeps a little time for herself. She needs to keep sane and so she reads in the bathtub, goes for walks or runs or to yoga class, works on projects and at part-time jobs that keep her foot in the door and her brain working. She asks her kids to help around the house and talks about her day with her husband. She phones a friend or writes a letter...she has a blog...she dreams...she prays...
Our eldest son turned eighteen early in May. In June he graduates from high school and this summer he is going to Europe for a month. He's a good kid who, I believe, will be a good man. When he first became a teenager, I would sometimes introduce him to a new friend by joking, "Meet my son Ian. We grew up together." My own mother was a wonderful example for me to follow and my children taught me everything else about what it means to be a grownup. I am grateful for everything I have gained from motherhood. It has been my best gift. (The tea in bed on Mother's Day morning was pretty nice, too.)
I wouldn't be a mother if I didn't take the occasional opportunity to show off my children. Our eldest recently performed at a youth festival in Vancouver. My daughter loaned me her camera and I took a video of the performance. The video quality isn't great, thanks to my lack of experience, but we posted it anyway.
He's the one on guitar and vocals.