"I’m the mom." It occurred to me when I brought my first baby home from the hospital and we spent our first day alone together. I looked at her and thought, “I’m the mom!” It felt like my greatest accomplishment. Every time someone came to look at her I wanted to hold her up and say “Ta-daaa!!” She was so tiny and perfect. Her life was all possibilities. I would watch her sleep and wish she would wake up so I could hold her. But I was the mom! I could hold her if I wanted, whenever I wanted! So I did. And she didn’t want anyone else to hold her--except daddy. Her only babysitters were her grandma and her aunts, and not very often. But sometimes we had to get out, away from home, independent. And we spent the evening talking about her. “I’m the mom” is a phrase full of pride.
“I'm the mom” has come to have so many other connotations since then. “I'm the mom” is what you say in the emergency room and at parent conferences, when there are other authority figures in your child’s life who want to know your business there. They think they’re in charge of your child, but it’s only temporary, and when you get there they must defer to you. Even if you don’t want them to. This I learned when my tiny perfect daughter was tall and twelve and had been watching the summer Olympics. A neighbor helped her home from the park. She was cradling her right arm, which seemed to have two wrists. I felt about twelve myself, and wanted to scream and cover my eyes. I looked around, but everyone was watching me, waiting for me to decide what to do about this. How should I know? I’m just trying not to throw up, standing here in the street. But I’m the mom! How can I be the mom? How did I get in charge of this? I wanted to holler for my own mom. But I said the wisest thing I could think of. I turned to my son and said, “Go get Dad!” “I’m the mom” is a phrase full of authority.
Now she's fourteen, and that phrase has even more meaning. There are boys out there. And their radar has found our house. And I’m feeling very old. It seems like last week that I was asking to go somewhere with my friends, talking on the phone for hours, rolling my eyes in exasperation at my parents. They didn’t know anything. They never had fun, and when they thought they were having fun it was really just boring stuff, poor things. Now I’m the one having to decide what’s allowed and what’s not. She’s having as much social life as her dad and I let her, and of course it’s not nearly enough for her. We want to trust her, want her to have fun, want her to have friends. But I see a big scary world out there, and she’s so young. I drop her off at the mall with her friends and watch her walk away and each time I have to decide all over again not to follow. Friends pick her up at home and I watch her leave giggling, happy to be out, away from home, independent. I look at her dad and see the boy he used to be and I think “Hey Buster, get up and take me somewhere fun. Our daughter thinks we’re old!” But I don’t say it. I’ll wait here till she gets home. “I’m the mom” is a phrase full of challenge.
What if I shook it off, just for a day--the voice of authority, the empty checkbook of responsibility, the frown lines of frustration . . . but if I did that, even for an hour, I would miss something amazing. And I don't want to miss a minute of all this--because I'm the Mom!