I’ve never been one of those women who falls instantly in love when she sees a baby. I’ve never run up to a child to ooh and aaah over chubby cheeks and long lashes. During my teenage years, I was more concerned with hitting softballs or perfecting my fielding ability than I was with getting my Red Cross certification so that I could earn a few measly dollars babysitting someone else’s child. To me, sitting at home with a child who refused to go to bed while his parents were out enjoying a lavish dinner or a concert seemed a punishment of sorts as opposed to an opportunity to make a few extra bucks. In my twenties, the thought of actually carrying a child terrified me. Not so much just the pregnancy and delivery; it was the eighteen or so years afterwards that really had me concerned. Not only did I not know anything about raising a child, but come to find out, no one teaches you anything at the hospital either! They let you give birth to his tiny, defenseless human and without showing you what to do, send you home with the boy or girl where you are, for the most part, left on your own. Keep in mind that I am someone that regularly walks from one room to another and then, in the mere seconds in took me to do so, forgets why it is that I entered the room in the first place! And these people thought I could care for a child?
Still, when I was nearly thirty, I got pregnant with my first child. I had a picture perfect pregnancy and after only twenty- two hours of labor, a human being was pulled out of me. (And I do mean “pulled.” There was no way a baby was passing through my hips. Apparently, I am skinny on the inside. Who knew?) And the moment that little girl was pulled out of me, so was my heart. My baby was placed on my belly for a few moments and my heart? Well, that was left outside of me as well where every cry, tear, and wail was sure to strike it, causing me pain unlike anything I’d ever known. Like most women, I fell instantly in love and spent the bulk of my maternity leave cradling her in my arms and staring at her. Over and over I whispered in awe, “I made this.” Nothing. No magazine article, love story, or advice from a friend could have prepared me for the overwhelming love I felt whenever I gazed upon my precious daughter.
Two weeks ago, this bundle of love took a test and the state of North Carolina gave her a piece of paper that said she could now drive a motor vehicle as long as I was sitting beside her…. Until 9pm, of course.
When I held her in my arms all those years ago, I couldn’t even imagine this day would come. I was, however, lucky enough to have wise friends who told me to cherish each day because they would pass by so swiftly. Because of the words of these wonderful ladies, I have always put my children first. If they needed me for something, I was there for them. If they needed to talk, I stopped what I was doing and gave them my full attention. Always. As a result, this young woman talks to me about anything and everything. She tells me what makes her happy and what has made her sad. I am there to pick up the pieces, whether it’s a stupid boy in class who made her heart hurt or the tears she sheds are because her father has disappointed her once again by putting her last on his list.
The thing is, what I cherish most in this world is time with my children. I also realize that the days when mom is needed are swiftly coming to an end. So while I am terrified of her driving, I also realize that for the next year, she and I will spend a minimum of sixty hours where she and I are simply driving around town. We will be able to talk to our hearts content and as any parent knows, this is time when your kids tell you everything. They know they have your undivided attention and tend to open up about anything that is bothering them.
So, rather than look to the future and to a time where I am no longer needed, I’m going to cherish this next year, much like I did for the twelve weeks of my maternity leave. I will spend each moment with her being truly with her and hope that no matter how independent she gets, she will always need her mother.
At least a little bit.