Unconditional love. Sure, we say we love our partner/spouse unconditionally, and we mean it. We love you unconditionally, unless... you get too fat, contract halitosis, start telling knock knock jokes at dinner parties, suddenly decide it's fun to push the cat in a stroller, take up rock collecting, get a Smart car... well, you get the idea. There may be stipulations to the unconditional love thing, or in other words, unconditional love may come with a few conditions.
And yet, true unconditional love is possible. I know this because I have experienced it every day for the last 28 years. "How?" you may be asking. How does a person like me who considers bad breath grounds for couples therapy, find love that can endure through the years with no questions asked? The answer is both simple and heart breaking, at times bringing such tremendous joy it's all I can do to not run down the street shouting it at passersby, while other times causing a pain so deep it can bring me to my knees. It's simple. I am a mother.
I am the very proud mother of four. As a Jewish cancer-phobe I wake up every day and immediately do a quick roll call. Yes, everyone is okay, they are all healthy, thank G-d. There was that one terrible scare we had when my son J, then 2-years-old, had swollen lymph nodes going up and down his neck. What I knew was a deadly case of childhood leukemia, turned out to be a raging case of Impetigo, contracted when he was playing in our koi pond and then ate this Pizza Lunchable without washing his hands. As my pediatrician Dr. Yusk explained, eyeing me accusingly, "It is an infection from dirt. From being dirty. From not washing." I felt like the mother in Coal Miner's Daughter.
"But Dang it Doc," I wanted to say. "I do the best I can with these four younguns. Raising 'em all by my lonesome self," which wasn't really true. I had a husband at the time, but he did travel now and then on business. In any case, other than the usual childhood illnesses, we have been lucky.
I have been reading little snippets here and there, (being a blog writer has made it impossible for me to read anything over 500 words in one sitting,) about Tiger Mom Amy Chua. She makes some very good points and her children certainly have proved her success as a mother. In fact it made me look at myself and ask, did I over-love? Did I want their road to be so smooth, so flat and effortless that I ran ahead filling in the pot holes before they hit them? Am I in fact, Golden Retriever Mom? I want to run and play and lick you when you cry and growl at anyone who dares to cross you, whether you get an A+ or a C-, or worse.
From the time they were born my basic instinct has been to protect. Protect from harm, protect from pain, protect from second grade teachers who send your son to the office for saying "vagina" on the playground. Really Ms. Kettering? Yes it was 17 years ago but I haven't forgotten, plus he was just explaining that he doesn't have one. Is it my fault he was brilliant beyond his years? Nor have I forgotten the coach who didn't put him in the game when we went to the baseball championships at Disney World, nor have I forgotten my 11-year-old daughter falling to the ground in tears on the lacrosse field when she missed the goal that would have sent her team to the state championship. My kids have long forgotten these moments and have gone on with their lives; I however, just can't seem to get past them. When it comes to my children, I hold a big freaking grudge and every painful experience they suffer seems to leave a gaping wound on my heart.
Of course as kids get older, saying vagina on the playground can turn into more serious trouble. How can I forget the night, when, just as I had fallen asleep, there was a knock on the door. Standing there were two police officers. First thought? This cannot be good. Second thought? I hope my boobs are not hanging out from under my t-shirt. They were simply inquiring if my son had made it home safely, and would I mind checking. I thought, now this is why I live in a gated community, everyone keeping an eye out for each other. I peeked in and saw my 18-year-old darling boy, fast asleep, safe and sound. I reported back to the officers, "Yes he's here, sound asleep! Thanks for checking. Goodnight!" They then asked if I would mind stepping outside to inspect his vehicle. Whenever a cop uses the word VEHICLE you know you are screwed.
"We think your son may have been involved in an accident involving property damage." I started to argue that there is no way that sleeping boy in there could have done anything like that, when I noticed black tire tracks coming from the gate leading into my driveway, where my sons' car sat with two flat front tires and a piece of concrete stuck to his bumper. Case closed, but in his defense... SEE? This is where I struggle!
In any case, they are grown now and what's done is done. I am totally guilty of not making them toe the absolute line and of trying to right their wrongs so they could just go about their merry way. Did I do them any favors? No, probably not. If I could go back and do it again would I have been a stronger parent? I like to think so. Could I possibly love them any more than I do at this very moment? Not a chance. I may not roar, but just thinking about them sure gets my tail wagging.