Over the years, I've thanked you for all the support you've given me in life -- for all the chorus and band recitals you sat through, for the birthdays and holidays you made special. I've thanked you for pushing me to be my best, for allowing me to do more and be more and experience more than you were allowed to do and be and experience as a kid.
But until I had kids of my own, I didn't know enough to thank you for the less noticeable "mom" stuff, the stuff I don't remember or couldn't understand until I experienced it firsthand. But now I have. So here goes:
Thank you, Mom, for enduring the anxiety and discomfort of pregnancy, and the pain and uncertainty and exhilaration and terror of labor, to bring me into the world. Thank you for all the nights you got up from your bed to come to mine and soothe me back to sleep. Thank you for the million tiny prayers you've sent up on my behalf, every day -- even now -- whenever you've read or seen something about a child being sick or lost or hurt or, God forbid, killed.
Thank you for all the times you surrendered yourself to fits of silliness, making funny faces and blowing raspberries on my tummy and dancing around the living room to make me giggle.
Thank you for wondering, "Is this right? Am I doing OK?", about a thousand times in quiet moments right before you fell asleep at night. Thank you for overcoming your frustrations when I was clingy or whiny or overtired or sick to keep caring for me when you felt like your deep well of mother's tenderness had surely run dry. Thanks for putting up with every diaper change I squirmed through, every bit of food I threw at you, and every time I spit up on a clean shirt you'd just put on.
Thank you for giving up your free time, surrendering your privacy, and setting aside some of the dreams you had as a woman to make room for all the new dreams you carried as a mother. Thank you for all the warm baths and bottles, all the practicing you did with me to say "Dada" and "Mama" and "milk." Thank you for holding onto my chubby fingers and helping me take my first steps, knowing I would eventually be walking away from you.
Thank you, Mom, for my siblings. Thank you for finding within yourself the ability to love all of us equally yet differently. And thank you for instilling in us respect for and allegiance to one another.
Thank you for working so hard to put food on the table for every meal, every day -- even when it was met with complaints or our downright refusal to eat it. And thank you for all those times you found yourself on your hands and knees picking up the food that was so carelessly dropped, spilled or thrown.
Thank you for enduring the exhaustion that comes with caring for more than one child in diapers. Thank you for all the juggling and cross-checking that took place just to get us out the door, or into bed. Thank you for dealing with all the extra splashing and water and chaos that come with bathing two children at the same time.
Thanks for folding laundry at midnight because that was the only free time you had to do it. And thanks for giving up whatever it was you would have liked to do with that precious free time, in favor of making sure your kids had clean clothes to wear the next day.
Thank you for bearing the days when the whining and fussing of multiple children seemed enough to send you running for the hills. Thank you for the sacrifices you made to be home with us as much as you could be, even in those tiny secret moments when you wished to be somewhere -- anywhere -- else.
Thank you for forcing us to share, but never making us feel like there wasn't enough of you to go around.
Thank you, Mom, for enduring endless hours of whining and fighting. Thanks for finding new and creative ways to break a tie, figure out who did what to whom, dispense punishment, dole out equal amounts of affection and somehow pay attention to more than one busy child at a time.
Thank you for teaching us that taking turns is one of the most important and universally necessary skills to have. And thanks for teaching us manners, Mom -- for instilling in us respect for every living thing and showing us how to be compassionate.
Thank you for introducing me to God, for praying with me and for me, and for helping me to recognize that still, small voice inside me that has so much power.
Thank you, Mom, for not completely losing your mind while potty training me.
Thank you for teaching me how to write my name, put on my own shirt, wash my hands... and all the other little skills you taught me when I was too little to thank you for them. Mostly, thanks for rejoicing in my growing independence and for knowing that it didn't mean I needed you any less.
Thanks for hanging in there once I figured out how to open, close and lock doors, jump, climb, run, plot, scheme, lie and hide. And thanks for putting up with every single debate over how many more bites of peas I had to eat before getting the cookie.
Thank you for loving me even when I was being annoying. (Especially when I was being annoying.)
Thank you for all the times you said, "I can't believe how big you're getting!" Back then, I just thought you meant I was getting taller, but now I know those words convey everything from pride and wonder to nostalgia and even sadness.
Thanks for pushing aside the self-doubt when it creeped in, and for hanging in there when you weren't sure you could. Thanks for the prayers you whispered and the tears I'm sure you shed, Mom, in quiet moments after losing your patience. Thank you for somehow hanging onto the belief that parenting is a journey and a process, not a test we pass or fail.
Thank you for living through me, for me and beside me, for carrying me when I needed you to (and sometimes when I didn't, but still whined to be held -- again, I'm so sorry for the whining!), and for letting me run ahead more often than you may have wanted me to.
Oh, and thanks for all the hugs and kisses I didn't ask for but got anyway. They were way better than all the treats and toys I begged for but didn't get.
Finally, thanks for teaching me the importance of sending thank-you notes. Once again, you were right.
Happy Mother's Day.