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What It Means to Be a Mother: A Letter to My Children

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To My Dears,

I love the cards you make for me on Mother's Day, the pictures you draw, the poems you write, but what I also want on this special day is to write something for you. I want to tell you what it means to be your mother because I am so grateful.

Being your mom means I get to see you up close experiencing exciting, sometimes scary, firsts. You jumped out of your crib (too soon!), you went to school for the first time, you caught a ball, you sang alone onstage, you rode a bike. I try to cheer for you from the sidelines of your life without interfering too much in your game (remember how distracting it was when that one mom shrieked too much during soccer?). But I am always here when you want me to listen, to give you advice, and to support you. I marvel at your courage as you conquer each new first. I tell you to stop growing, but you know how much I love to watch you grow (even if it means something is missing from my closet).

Being your mom means I encourage you to work hard, make mistakes, and then achieve success. I am the lucky one who watched you persevere to crawl, walk, read, and make friends. You look at me knowingly as I read you Michael Jordan's quote repeatedly (it is Daddy, by the way, who finds all the good sports quotes): "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." I get to see you repeat this cycle of hard work, failure, and achievement again and again. Your energy and determination are contagious.

Being your mom means I treasure our special time together. When I read to you at night, when I surprise you for your "hooky day," when we light the candles, when we bake brownies and you crack the eggs. You bring a love of life with you.

Being your mom means when you are sad or scared, I get to comfort you. I am beside you at the emergency room, I cried with you when Great Grandma died, and we cuddled when you had the terrifying nightmare. I am there to give you a hug when a friend is mean to you, to encourage you to make it right when you have wronged someone, and to listen when you feel misunderstood. I feel your pain, and I am relieved when your smile peeks out again. I am in awe of your resilience.

Being your mom means I make lots of mistakes: I forget your lunch, I'm on my phone too much, I lose my temper, I don't laugh enough. Sometimes I say "I'm sorry," and I try to do better the next time. Sometimes you say "Can we start over?" or "Can I give you some feedback?" and I am overwhelmed by your wisdom.

Being your mom means I am okay being unpopular when I have to say "no" to you. I feel your anger, and I understand it because I felt that way once, too. It is my job to do the right thing to guide you as you grow up, even when it means I have to turn you down. I admire your grit as you plead your case, and yet, as you know, sometimes the answer remains "no."

Being your mom means I understand and can handle your frustration: you stomp your feet and jump up and down and say mean things. Sometimes you say you hate me or you love Daddy more. I said those same things when I was a kid. I tell you to be respectful or apologize, but I do not take what you say personally. You are always safe to express yourself to me. Being your mom means that I am strong (even if I cry when I read Harry Potter to you). I appreciate that you will feel disappointment at times.

Being your mom means I insist that you are kind. I take out the "you are special" plate at dinner when a teacher tells me you cheered up a friend or you helped to clean up during recess that day. When others do something mean or that you know is wrong, I expect that you will do the right thing. You know deep down what is right, and so you do it, even if it is hard and makes you unpopular at the moment. I am most proud that you are a good person.

Being your mom means the ultimate satisfaction when I feel your happiness. You read me a poem you wrote, you perform on stage and our eyes meet, you make a new friend and burst into the house with the news, you score and look towards the sidelines as I cheer. Your happiness and pride, even more than your accomplishments, make me deeply happy.

Being your mom means sometimes you need me and sometimes you need to be without me, playing with friends, exploring the world, learning. You waved to me as the school bus left every morning, and I was grateful. But then you no longer waved to me, and I felt happy, because I knew it meant you were thriving. I am always here when you need me, but I celebrate your independence.

One thing about being your mom you know perhaps best... I never stop photographing you. I am the family historian so one day you can look back and enjoy the memories that fly by. So when I ask you to stop sticking out your tongue, to put away the bunny ears, to smile, you will look into the camera and give me your happiest grin because, as you know too well, I adore your smile.

Being your mom means every day is special day for me because you are you.

I love you googolplex,
Mommy