My youngest turned 16 recently and obtained his driver's license. It is strange to think that I will never again chauffeur a child to and from school every day. That has been a responsibility of mine for so long that I find myself a bit freaked out at the extra time I have to get ready in the mornings. But mostly, I miss the rides to school in which my happy-go-lucky kid would sing and dance along to the radio and make me laugh. Being so NOT a morning person, he made my mornings a bit more bearable. We would stop for lattes and have great conversations. I now am struggling with feeling disconnected from him. Who knew I would take to motherhood so well.
You see, when I was younger, I insisted to anyone who would listen that I was never going to have children. Growing up in a family with complicated relationship issues made me not want the addition of someone elses needs in my life. I was purely out for myself, as most people in their teens and twenties are. And then I unintentionally got pregnant. And my life changed. I have raised two boys, (and helped raise my step-son and daughter) and although it has not been easy, it also hasn't been that bad either. I can honestly admit that I enjoy being around my kids more than anyone else in the world, except my husband. Especially now that they are all grown up.
I can look back and see the impact I have had on them that was not intentional on my part. My step daughter has a few mannerisms and ways of speaking that I know she got from me, as most people who don't know that I am not her mother will tell me how alike we are. I find that funny. My youngest son unfortunately shares my tendency to be unfocused and "flighty" at times. We both share an amazingly strange sense of humor that most other people don't understand. My older son inherited my generosity, my tendency to give other people everything I have even when I don't have it to give. He also has my tender heart, which has caused him much heartbreak that I wish he hadn't had to go through. Although there were things I intentionally tried to impart to them, (keep your room clean, don't lie, don't swear, finish your vegetables) it's the unintentional mannerisms that catch my attention the most these days. I don't look at the past years and see the things I didn't accomplish, I just see the memories that I didn't fully appreciate at the time.
I have been irrevocably changed by being a mother. I am softer, wiser, and probably funnier because of how my children have raised me. When you feed them brussel sprouts and two of them throw up and one cries the whole time like you've just murdered their kitten, you develop a sense of humor quick! But the biggest change has been my appreciation for my own mother. When I was younger, my mother and I did not get along so well. You see, those complicated family issues caused me to judge her and insist that she didn't understand me. But being a mother myself and raising teenagers opened my eyes to just how difficult it is. My mother did the best she could under the circumstances, as we all do, because, let's face the facts, we are not given a handbook for raising children that reads "If this happens (insert crises here) do this." I judge my mother less harshly and I appreciate her all the more for the woman that she is. We still disagree and I am convinced that there are things about me that she really doesn't understand, but she loves me, she loves her grandchildren, and for 50 years, she has loved my father. And she is a better woman than I used to give her credit for. Someday, I hope my children will say the same for me. That I loved them with all the love that one person can be capable of, that I appreciated them for who they are, and that when the chips were down, I was there for them. That is what makes motherhood fulfilling to me.