On my first ever Mother’s Day I was an omnipotent presence in my son’s world. He was exactly 24 hours old. At that point, it isn’t hard to convince an infant you hold the keys to the universe.
In the case of my son Matthew, I needed only to pat, wipe, rock and feed him and I earned his undying gratitude and devotion.
As he grew to toddler hood he also grew more convinced than ever that I was all-powerful. There wasn’t a boo-boo that wouldn’t heal under my soothing kiss, a tear that would not dry under my gentle caress, or a monster that could not be vanquished by my mere presence.
In my small boy’s eyes I knew just about everything there was worth knowing. Then he turned 4 and my whole gig was blown. Suddenly my savvy darling is all about questions. Seemingly by the thousands are these questions I cannot answer.
In the face of his newfound thirst for knowledge I am having a hard time maintaining my image.
Honestly, how could I have gotten through some 17 years of schooling without knowing the answer to why boy ladybugs aren’t called “guybugs?” Why, if vegetables are good for you, God didn’t make them taste more like popsicles? Or why zippers start at the bottom and end at the top instead of the other way around?
It is small consolation that he has chosen to fill the void caused by my advancing stupidity by surrounding himself with smart friends. It turns out that his pal Kelsey claims to know how to fly. Adam can jump “as high as the whole world” and Kayla, a certified “big kid,” rides the bus (this, I am assured, is very, very cool.)
In light of this fresh admiration for his friends, I realize his peers have begun to replace me. I cannot fly, I don’t jump much, and I have no occasion to ride the bus.
All I have to offer is a pitiful array of old tricks such as kissing boo-boo’s, double-tying shoelaces, and knowing how to sing the forgotten second verse to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
I fear this is the beginning of the slow slide to teenage rebellion. Now that he is aware of the gaps in my knowledge it must be only a matter of time until he will decide I know absolutely nothing, was never his age, and exist only to make his life miserable.
Am I doomed to get dumber every year as he grows more aware? Or can I hope that I may regain lost ground in that way that all of our parents seemed hopelessly obtuse when we were 16 but somehow had gotten smarter again by the time we were 25?
I think I speak for my parenting peers when I say we can only hope for the best.
On our first Mother’s Day we are full of optimism and grand plans. By our fourth, or 40th, we know that life doesn’t always turn out like it does in those What to Expect When You are Expecting books.
So, on this Mother’s Day and every day we can hope that our children remember not the mother who sometimes lost her temper, her car keys, and maybe for a moment, her mind.
The mom who it turned out didn’t “know everything” and some days seemed to know nothing much useful at all.
Rather, I hope that our children remember us as mothers who tried our best, loved them fiercely, and gave our whole heart to parenting.
Mothers who took instinct, advice, and (one hopes) copious amounts of common sense and cobbled it into responsible and loving guidance.
Like mothers the world over I will simply have to go on faith that my child will grow to respect and admire my efforts in the coming years.
That he will know I was a mother who believed that children learn what they live, and that I tried to make sure that he and his sister lived every day with love, wonder, faith, compassion, and a healthy sense of humor – even if I couldn’t fly.
In the meantime, I plan to hedge my bets. It’s never too late to find out why boy ladybugs aren’t called “guybugs” after all.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt wishes to thank Matthew Michael and Kassandra Jeannette for all five of the wonderful Mother’s Days she has enjoyed. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.)