Every child is gifted. They just unwrap their packages at different times. -Unknown
Today, upon your request, I visited your school and brought you lunch. You asked me to bring you a Jimmy Johns sandwich (turkey, white cheese and lots of mayo), Doritos and a chocolate milk.
I stood outside your Kindergarten classroom and watched you reading a book in the corner. After a few moments you noticed me. Immediately your eyes lit up and you started waving uncontrollably saying, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”
When all of the kids got in line to wash their hands, you came and gave me a great big hug.
I glanced at your teacher and she whispered, “He is so excited!”
I followed your class into the lunchroom and smiled to myself as you saved me a spot next to you at the cafeteria table. You patted it with your hand and said, “Right here, Mom. Sit next to me.”
I forgot the mayo on your sandwich and brought BBQ chips and a lemonade. But you didn’t seem to mind.
We ate lunch and talked about important things, like how great mayonnaise is. You introduced me to the kids sitting at the table. I helped them unscrew their thermoses and open their snacks. You pointed out the clock on the wall and told me that lunch is over when the big hand gets to the twelve.
After you finished I suggested you go and throw away your trash and you told me that you needed to wait until the teacher called your table. Then you asked me to stay for recess so you could show me the playground.
So I did.
When the bell rang, you stood up, grabbed my hand and, together, we walked down the hall to go outside. You said it was the “secret” way.
Once outside, I watched you climb, hang and jump your way around every single piece of playground equipment.
We fell into a cadence of You: Mom, watch this!
And then Me: Wow, that’s great!
You showed me the swings, the sandbox and the trashcans.
At one point you told me that you had to go to the bathroom and made me promise to sit on a big tire and wait for you.
So I did.
After you came back, we played some more. And then I said I needed to go because it was time to pick up your brothers, and you begged, “No Mom, can you please just stay five more minutes?”
When five minutes was up, you asked for two more. And then one more.
When it was finally time to go, you gave me hug after hug after hug. You asked me if I would come back tomorrow.
I walked away from the playground and you stayed by my side. And when we reached the edge, I said goodbye and continued on toward my car. I turned around one last time and saw you standing at the corner with your hand raised in a wave.
I ducked behind the building for a few moments and then peeked back at you and saw your blond hair and blue shoes swinging from the monkey bars.
I stood there and thought about how important it was for me to remember this day and all of the little things you did to make it so special.
So I came home and I wrote you this letter to thank you.
Thank you for today, this big day for a lot of little reasons.
Thank you for being you.
And thank you for reminding me how very lucky I am that you picked me for your mom.
I know it won’t always be like this.
I know soon you won’t be begging for my time. You won’t be calling me Mommy, you won’t be giving me limitless hugs and you won’t be holding my hand.
I know you’ll grow up faster than I can manage in my heart.
But you gave me today.
And I will put today in a special pocket and always hold it close to me.
For today, and for you, I will forever be grateful.
Love, Your Mom
I have three little boys. I ask for a lot of favors.
I ask for help with rides to and from school, practices and parties.
When friends go to the grocery store and call to see if I need anything, I say yes.
I quietly refrain from offering to host festivities or dinners or really anything at my house anytime, ever.
When I go out with more than one friend, I don’t volunteer to drive because I’m unwilling to wrestle and ratchet the car seats in and out of my car to make room.
Going places with any combination of my kids is tough and generally involves crying, darting and grabbing anything within arms’ length. And I’m crying, darting and grabbing too. Not so lovely. Not so fun.
And having people over at my house with any combination of my kids at home (and where else would they be?) is tough and generally involves crying, darting and grabbing anything within arms’ length. And I’m crying, darting and gabbing too. Not so lovely. Not so fun.
Maybe if I had a guesthouse or a tree house or even a tent where we could hide from the kids, I could host a holiday party. But I don’t, so I don’t.
And please don’t even get me started on the car seats. I’ve lost more than a fair share of blood, sweat, tears and fingernails over them. They are locked, loaded and not going anywhere until I know they are gone for good.
I have three little boys. I ask for a lot of favors.
But fortunately, for me, I have wonderful, generous and loving people in my life willing to do those favors. I have the friends who host the parties, carpool my kids and offer to drive to sushi. I have the friends who babysit and buy me groceries.
In fact, after our twins were born, I have a friend who, on several occasions, picked up my big kid after preschool, fed, bathed, pajama-ed, and returned him home five minutes before bedtime.
I have a friend who baby-proofed my house.
I have a friend who took my big kid out to lunch with her sons.
I have a friend who handed me up her kids’ clothes, gear and toys and saved our Christmas a few times over.
I have friends who loan me everything from Band-Aids to oregano so that I can avoid another trip to the store.
And these lovely favor givers never ask, nor expect me to settle up. They don’t count the marbles in their jars or the tallies on their sheets. They just do it out of the kindness of their hearts—those wonderful, generous and loving hearts.
So to my friends, my offerors, my heavy lifters, and the genies in my lamp, I say thanks.
Thank you for stepping in and stepping up and for never, ever keeping score. Thank you for all that you do and for not asking for anything in return.
Thank you for understanding that I might not ever be able to pay you back.
But I do promise you one thing.
I will return the favor someday to someone else.
One day I’ll be on the other side of this frenzy. My kids won’t be so unmanageable, my house will have some space and calm, and the car seats will be gone. And then the hosting and the rides and the grocery runs won’t seem so ill-fated.
When that time comes, when it’s my turn, I promise I will be a genie too. I will make the offers and I will give the rides. I will do the favors and I won’t keep score or expect anything in return.
When my time comes, surely there will be another frazzled mom who needs a helping hand. And I will be the one to step up.
But I won’t do it for her.
I’ll do it for you.
My five-year-old son wears Spider-Man shoes that light up when he runs.
He also wears Angry Bird socks pulled up to his knees.
He hides a Peyton Manning jersey two sizes too small in the corner of his closet every night so that I don’t wash it and he can wear it again the next day. I’ve tried buying him other jerseys but he prefers that tight-fitting, stained and smelly one to anything else. He says it helps him run fast.
He has three different varieties of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pajamas in orange, blue and red as to represent Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael. Sorry Donatello, but purple is a girl color.
He has a Spidey hooded sweatshirt and the hood hangs down over his eyes like a Spidey mask. He stays warm while also preventing his identity from being revealed. Genius.
Years ago I met a woman who told me she never let her boys wear clothes with characters or words on them.
I think of her every time I fold the laundry.
When my son started Kindergarten this year, we had almost daily wardrobe wrangles. I’d choose a plaid button-down shirt. He’d want a Superman t-shirt with holes in it because it has a cape. I’d pick skinny jeans. He’d choose soccer shorts. I’d suggest a striped Izod shirt. He’d beg for a shirt depicting various kinds of poop at the zoo. (I’m not kidding, it’s literally a shirt with pictures of poop at the zoo.)
Some days we compromise, which generally results in a “business up top, party down below” (or vice versa) ensemble. And some days it’s just a cute little hot mess. In very bright colors.
For all of you amazing moms who somehow manage to get your boys in cardigans, berets and bow ties, I truly tip my hat to you.
Your kids look adorable. Your kids are what my MiniBoden and Crewcuts dreams are made of. Your kids are the kids in the posters in the windows at the mall.
My kids are the kids in capes running around in those windows.
Sometimes I look at my darling little ragamuffin at the bus stop and I can’t help but cringe.
And then I pray that it’s not picture day or assembly day or a day in which the national news just might be spotlighting our school.
But then I smile.
And remind myself that he’s five years old.
There’s only so long in a life that you can get away with wearing a mask or a cape or shoes that light up when you run. And there’s only so long that in a life that you want to wear a mask or a cape or shoes that light up when you run.
So I say, let him be five.
Let him be a superhero every day. Let him think he looks like the coolest kid on the block. Let him make some little choices about his life, the kind of choices that really don’t matter at the end of the day.
Because soon enough he won’t want to look like a superhero anymore. Soon enough he’ll exchange his role models for ones that aren’t so super and aren’t so heroic. Soon enough he’ll just want to fit in and wear what everyone else wears and do what everyone else does. And soon enough he’ll have to make some big choices about his life, the kind of choices that do matter at the end of the day. So he better start getting some practice.
Of all the battles with my kids, this is one in which I sometimes just have to wave the white flag. Honestly, I’d rather he eat the carrots than wear the button-down.
So if you ever wonder what kind of mother would let her kid out of the house in soccer shorts and a dirty jersey, with shoes that light up, a cape flying behind him and a mask over his eyes, I’ll tell you.
It’s a superhero’s mom.
I only wish I were brave enough to wear the shoes.
Yesterday was one of those icky days. The kind when you wake up and right off the bat you’re wishing for a redo. Nothing even close to catastrophic happened, just a bunch of little things in a row that had me on a warpath by noon.
I woke up early and picked up the family room, took greater than usual care to vacuum, fluff and arrange the pillows on the sofa, fold and lay the afghans and pick up and put away the toys, books and thousands of itty bitty pieces of plastic.
I left the room for no more than two minutes (to go to the bathroom; of course it always happens when I go to the bathroom), and my hooligans had destroyed every single last bit of my handiwork. They pulled every cushion, pillow and blanket off the couch to make a huge pile in the middle of the floor and were standing on the couch frame hurling the aforementioned itty bitty pieces of plastic at each other…and then at me.
After dropping one of the three monkeys at the bus stop, I headed to the gym with the other two. I was rejected at the door of the Kids’ Club for “alleged” (aka “We don’t want to deal with your kids”) reasons.
Trying to salvage the morning, we headed to the park.
Have you ever tried to use a porta-potty with 2x two-year-olds? I’ll just leave it at that.
Next we drove to the pharmacy drive-thru to pick up a prescription. When told I had to wait for an hour, I said this: “Why are you being so rude to me? Do you know I have two screaming children in here?” Then I followed it up with a dramatic entrance into the store and onto a soapbox (twins in tow, yet still able to make spirited hand gestures) and an “I. Would. Like. To. Speak. To. A. Manager. I. Will. Be. Taking. My. Prescriptions. Elsewhere.” Wow. Someone call Broadway.
I came home, fed the kids the $15 worth of food I bought in the Starbucks drive thru (thank God for drive thrus) because I was so exasperated from this no good day and the thought of swiping peanut butter seemed like way too much. Although, truth be told, that Starbucks grilled cheese is pretty out of this world.
Three poop diapers, two water fights atop our kitchen island and one thankfully unsuccessful attempt to actually SWING from a light fixture, I put the ruffians down for a nap and went about trying to recreate the picturesque family room, sighing and wah wah-ing along the way.
And then my mom sent me this photo of herself:
My brave and fierce mama began her fifth round of chemo last week. She was already losing her hair and decided to take the bull by the horns, shave her head and meet the inevitable with courage and dignity.
She was bald, she was smiling and she was beautiful.
God bless my sweet mama. She feels so bad but then has the grace to apologize for complaining about it. She’s the one person who truly knows what a truly bad day is because she’s had more than her fair share. She stares it right in the face and says: “Is this all you got?” Then she shaves her head and goes out for Italian food to celebrate.
And just like that, my day didn’t seem so bad after all. Just like that, all of my silly problems seemed extra silly.
Isn’t it crazy how a little perspective can come at the exact moment when we need it most?
Of course, this is not to say that we aren’t due our fair share of bad days. Or that our problems aren’t problems or that our mini tragedies aren’t tragic. Because they are. We can’t always compare and minimize our lot because there’s always someone with a trump card. And sometimes we just need to give ourselves a little room for a little self-pity and have ourselves a little wah wah.
But every once in a while, it helps to get a little gut check. Sometimes we need a little “in the grand scheme of things” reminder that a messy house, a missed workout and a little extra wait time aren’t really the fixings of a bad day.
And maybe a little poop isn’t so bad when we think about someone else who might have a whole lot more crap on her hands.
Thanks, Mom. Again.
My son’s preschool shares a parking lot with the elementary school where he will be attending Kindergarten next year.
On the last day of preschool, my (soon to be non) preschooler and I parked and headed in for the end of the year festivities. He carried a bundle of roses to give to his teachers.
The “big school” kids were outside on the playground playing soccer and three of them were standing at the fence near our parking spot. They had kicked their soccer ball over the fence into the lot and they asked us (very politely, I was impressed) to throw their ball back over the fence.
My little guy, so very much wanting to be “cool” in front of the big kids, gave me his roses, ran, grabbed the ball and sprinted over to the fence. He turned to me and asked in a very meek and quiet voice, “Mom, can I throw it back to them?”
He tried once but couldn’t get it over the fence. He tried a second time, but it just bounced right back to us. Next, I tried to lift him up so he would be higher but he still couldn’t get it over the fence.
Thankfully, the big kids were patient enough to indulge a little five year old’s futile attempts to impress.
In the end, he handed it to me and I threw it over the fence. He took back the roses and we turned and walked down to his school for the last time.
And as I watched him skip ahead, I couldn’t help but smile.
Generally speaking, when something significant happens to me or around me, I don’t realize its significance until well after the happening.
But this time, standing in that parking lot, I knew this was a moment. One of those magical, metaphorical moments.
This is a big year for my big kid. He’s taking a big step. And making a big change.
He wants so badly to be on that other side of the fence.
And there are parts of me that want to see him there too.
I’m excited for him. I’m ready for him to take this step and I know he’s ready and excited too.
But there are other parts of me that want to keep him on this side. Sometimes I look at him and just can’t see past the six-pound bundle in the hospital cap and blue and white blanket.
In my head, I know he’s moved on. But in my heart, he’s still a baby.
And I still love and cling onto all of those sweet little kid nuances that remind me of that baby.
Like how he loves his new swim team suit because it’s “sparkly.” And how he is fascinated by hidden cup-holders, dragon kites and hot air balloons. He still says “free” instead of “three.” Band-Aids cure every single ailment and if Band-Aids aren’t available, a lollipop will do the trick. He still wants his mom when he is sad, scared or shy. Monsters are real. But so is Santa. And every night he prays for his family, his friends, the zoo and the museum. He still loves to cuddle and he thinks I’m the prettiest girl in the world. And he doesn’t care how he looks carrying a bundle of roses.
And I know this next step is inevitable. And I know this next step is exciting. And I know that there will be bigger and more important steps after this one.
Because it’s all about taking steps. And climbing fences.
Because that’s how we grow.
And I absolutely love watching him grow. I love watching him take steps and climb fences.
But every so often, it’s nice to be reminded of that tiny babe. And that’s what I see when I see he’s still a little too little to throw the ball over the fence.
Because soon enough he’ll be on the other side. And he’ll be the one asking some other mom for his ball back.
I just hope he says please and thank you.
Motherhood is a choice you make every day to put someone else’s happiness and well-being above your own. To teach the hard lessons. To do the right thing, even when you’re not sure what the right thing is. And to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong. -Donna Ball
image via Anissa Thompson
A lion sleeps in the heart of every brave man. –Turkish Proverb
Thirteen years ago, my mom and I participated in a three-day walk from Fort Collins to Boulder, Colorado, in support of breast cancer awareness. The total route was sixty miles, averaging around twenty miles a day. We walked in the very hot and sunny days of August and we camped in tents each night. It was more grueling and demanding than I ever imagined it would be and many of the participants had trouble even completing each day.
My mom and I trekked along our journey with determination and resilience. Or, I should say, my mom trekked along our journey with determination and resilience. I was 24 and believed I was invincible.
Unfortunately, on Day 3, my mom injured her foot and had difficulty putting weight on it. The twenty miles ahead of us seemed at the least, daunting, and at the most, impossible. But my mom was steadfast in her determination to finish what we started months before in preparation and fundraising efforts. She decided she was going to cross that finish line and nothing stood in the way of her grit and resolve. One foot in front of the other. Step by step. For the last couple of miles I held her arm and bore some of her weight as the pain began to overwhelm her.
But we forged ahead, both of us reduced to tears, and eventually we crossed the finish line together. It was an incredible moment and a day I will never, ever forget. It was a genuine triumph earned in a genuine way—with hard work and fortitude of body, mind and character.
Almost exactly ten years later to the day, my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She has since undergone multiple surgeries, hospital stays and four rounds of chemotherapy. She has lost her hair twice. She has endured an emotional and physical roller coaster of good news and bad news, of good days and bad days.
Since her diagnosis, I’ve often thought about the day we walked.
I remember it as her lion heart day.
I saw first hand her incredible fighting spirit. I watched her dig deep, hold her head high and keep on keeping on. I remember being so proud of her and so impressed by her and so wishful that I had a little of that lion heart somewhere inside of me.
Today she is on a different kind of a walk. A longer and harder walk. The hills are steeper and the terrain is rougher.
But that same lion heart is there.
I see that fighting spirit and resolve and determination. I see her dig deep, hold her head high and keep on keeping on. She has been put to test upon test upon test and she always comes out standing, ready to forge ahead. One foot in front of the other. One step at a time.
On this Mother’s Day, I celebrate that fighting spirit that I see in my mom. I celebrate the lion heart in her and the lion heart that she’s helped me find in me.
Whenever I’m put to the test, whenever I know I have to dig deep and find reserves I didn’t even know I had, I thank my mom. It’s one of the best gifts she’s ever given me. And it’s one of the reasons why it is such an honor to have shared every day of my life with her.
Today I raise a glass to my mom and to all of the lion hearted moms out there.
I applaud your fighting spirit, your resolve and your grace. For it’s not the snuggles or the soccer games that band us together. It’s the times when Life brings us to our knees but we stand up and start again. It’s the time when our strong, brave hearts help us to forge ahead even though it feels like we need to surrender.
Today I celebrate that resilience and strength and having the know how to know how.
A lion sleeps in the heart of every brave man. And every mother.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.