I’m not a naturally maternal person. Growing up in a small family, I wasn’t exposed to babies and toddlers on a regular basis – and I was fine with that. To me, babies squirmed and smelled and really were quite boring. In my petulant way of thinking as a teenager, I resolved to never have children.
Today I am a mother – by calling. As a young adult, I took my vows at our Nuptial Mass seriously. Children, though foreign to my life experience, were a welcomed gift in my heart. Still, the reticence of raising children into adolescents and then young adults terrified me, as I later learned happens to nearly every parent.
And the babies came, one after another. But the maternal instincts did not kick in for me. I didn’t know what to do when my daughters cried. Was it time to change a diaper? Feed her? Cuddle? Was she in pain? Tired? It seemed like this was a constant guessing game, and I was frustrated more often than not.
Then the time arrived when my girls first learned to feed themselves without assistance. Then use the potty. Then dress themselves. Then go off to school.
My cousin lamented shortly after school began that, “My daughter doesn’t need me anymore, because she can tie her shoes by herself!” Quizzically, I pondered that concept – Is it true that our children one day come to a place where they don’t need us anymore?
No matter our age, we always need our parents. Those needs evolve, however, from physical help or teaching us our ABCs to moral and emotional support in our latter years. But we never stop needing that relationship. It merely changes.
And changes evoke both loss and hope. They always do. This is the place where grief resides – that messy, limbo-type space between what has been and what is yet to be. Every milestone, every growth spurt, and every achievement leads us, as parents, to both sorrow and joy.
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