Having just come off two weeks with our three daughters home for the holidays, here are observations that solidify a couple of adages: “Once a mother always a mother.” And secondly: “A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.”
1. Just when you settled into feeling like the smart, sensible, likeable human being you believe yourself to be, suddenly your every utterance, mannerism and behavior is a source of great amusement. Imitations of you abound. You are Kathie Lee Gifford and they are Kristen Wiig. Apparently, the way I call out their father’s name when he is on the other side of the house or out in the garage sounds more like the shrill wail of a wounded animal than a middle-aged wife letting her husband know dinner’s ready. Also, I have a distinct way of shrieking when a maniac driver whom I do not recognize but apparently gave birth to abruptly changes lanes and my screams are evidently utterly hilarious.
Apparently the rest of the world does not dote on a puppy the way their father and I do. That we allow Gordie on the bed and that we both attend his vet appointments (I admit their father, rarely came to the pediatrician with me) is so over the top they tease us for treating Gordie like a replacement child, which is … well … maybe only half true.
2. Just because a child is 21 years old, has never been in an accident, drives a reliable vehicle that has been recently checked out by a mechanic, and has made the dean’s list for 3½ years and counting, doesn’t mean that when she embarks on a 260-mile solo trip to ring in the new year with friends in New York there is no cause for concern.
Then factor in warring navigation systems: the Garmin GPS vs. Siri vs. Dad’s estimate from his trusty Rand McNally Atlas (cue eye roll from child).
When tensions reach a pinnacle (Dad: “Just text us if you run into problems.” Mom: “For God sakes, don’t text and drive! Call us!” Dad: “Whatever you do, don‘t call from Canada. Roaming charges are a fortune!”) and the departing child is in tears, the last thing you want to hear is sage counsel from her older sister: “Mom, you’ve just go to let her go.”
Resist the urge to bite said older sister’s head off. Unfortunately, “just wait until you become a mother” is not perceived as the threat we know it to be. A simple “you have no idea of what you are talking about” will suffice. Because the truth is, they don’t get it. And they won’t get it until they experience their own children ripping their heart of out of their chest while simultaneously backing out the driveway.
3. Don’t try to speak their language. Don’t say things like “Your dad was talking smack to his friends.” Or “That’s dope.” Don’t send texts like: “Gurrl you look hawt!”
4. When you peek in their rooms to see them snug in their beds (because doing so ensures you will have the best night’s sleep in recent memory) and discover they sleep with their cell phones in bed with them, do not be alarmed. This is not because they text in their sleep, like Willie, Natalie and Al in their insufferably fake banter might want you to believe. It’s because they use their phones as alarm clocks. Who knew, right?
5. Do expect that if you have any time on your hands, like waiting in line at the pharmacy for a flu shot, you will have your photo taken. For your kids, the only thing more addictive than selfies are pictures of their mother when she has not yet showered, nor brushed her teeth, and in fact, looks very much like she already has the illness from which she is waiting to be inoculated.
6. Do expect them to graze on small portions of food throughout the day. This is probably truer of girls rather than boys. Bask in all the compliments on your home-cooked dinners. Do expect the dishwasher to be running all the time, ditto laundry. Don’t be surprised if you find you don’t mind all that folding or washing, so long as you can hear laughter from the next room, or yet another yelp over a Facebook post. It’s because the house feels like home again.
7. There will be the mom-loves-you-more accusations, the arguments over stolen clothes, slights taken too seriously, advice not taken seriously enough. Know your place. When in doubt, leave them be.
8. You will spend way too much money on clothes for them because there is nothing like sitting in a dressing room and looking at the reflection of an attractive, smart young woman and discovering she is your baby girl. You will not regret the expense, nor should you.
9. When its time to say goodbye, be brave.
Remember: Letting go is an act of love.