So this might come as a surprise to some of you, but I look like a mom. I was making my 732nd trip to the school to drop Isaac off at track practice and I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror. Woah. Not pretty. I was absolutely shocked by the wrinkles and gray hair and just plain old momness of my reflection. I know that I am sounding incredibly vain. I guess that I am. But I was genuinely surprised. In my head, I am still 28. I still have a smooth wrinkle free face and I only color my hair because it is fun, not out of necessity. So you can only imagine my shock when a 40 year old looked back at me. Yeesh.
I started to think back to what my life was like 12 years ago, when I was 28. For one thing, I only had 5 kids. Just a little over half of my kids…weird. Hannah was just 8 months old. Isaac would have only been 21 months old. DJ was just finishing up chemo. The twins, DJ and Coley were only 8. They had just received their First Communions. And Jake had just turned 7. Jake was Aiden’s age. Again…super weird.
Twelve years ago, I was just a baby mom. Not only did I have babies, but I was only 3 years into motherhood. My life was so different. Life with 5 kids under the age of 8 is a lot different than where I am right now. My life revolved around the logistics of getting from point A to point B with 3 little kids, a toddler and a baby. Getting groceries was an adventure, and not in the fun sense. It was crazy and hard and I loved it. Because along with all of the struggles, there was also nap time and nursing babies that fall sound asleep in your arms and tea parties and little league. Life was good.
But the next twelve years were good too. They brought four more little souls into the world. Gianna, Noah, Aiden and Jonathan joined our growing family. There were more First Communions and tea parties and little league games. There have also been Confirmations and basketball playoffs. There have been driver’s licenses and graduations. There have been proms and volleyball. There has been college and track. There have been surgeries and new jobs. There has been a big move. In other words, life kept on happening. And as life kept on happening, I guess time has too. With the passing of time has come wrinkles and gray hair and if I am being honest, a little extra padding. But I wouldn’t change any of it. The last twelve years have brought me so much joy.
With this passage of time has come greater experience with this whole motherhood thing. I am no longer the “baby” mom in either sense of the word. My “baby” is now five and I have 15 years of practice behind me. I have learned that each and every child is different and brings their own gifts to the family. They also bring their own challenges and struggles. And as their mother, it is my job to figure out how to nurture their different gifts as well as to help them to overcome their struggles. It is also my job to learn how to love each one of them. One of the most difficult things about being a mother is learning the difference between being a mother to a child versus being a mother to an adult. I guess that you can attribute some of the wrinkles and gray hair to that lesson.
If I think back to my memories of my own mother, I don’t remember wrinkles or gray hair. I remember her hanging sheets out to dry on the clothesline and allowing us to lay on a blanket underneath and play in the “tent.” I remember the smell of her perfume when she was dressed up to go somewhere. I remember our house feeling like a home because of the love that she put into it. I remember thinking that she was beautiful. When I was in college, I remember coming home and sitting at the kitchen table just enjoying the chance to talk to her as she drank her coffee. (I wasn’t a coffee drinker quite yet.) I remember her genuine joy when Brian and I got engaged. I remember her calming my nerves the morning of my wedding. I remember her face the first time the kids called her Mama. I remember the smile that happened each time a new grandchild was placed in her arms. I remember how supportive she was about our move to Ohio, even when I wasn’t so sure if I could do it myself.
I hope that when my kids think back to memories of me, they remember that I loved them unconditionally and that I was always there for them as my mom was for me. I hope that they remember that everything that I did for them, I did because I believed that it was in their best interest, even if they didn’t like it at the time. I also hope that if they remember the gray hair and wrinkles, they remember that I earned them. They are the battle scars of age and motherhood. So instead of being horrified at my reflection and the fact that I look like a “mom,” I will just embrace it and look forward to what wonders the next 12 or so years will bring.
But I am still going to color my hair.