I remember looking down at my tennis shoes. They were an odd pairing, my shoes and my ballet tights. I kicked my feet back and forth making noises with the shoelaces as I waited for a parent to take me to dance class. My mom had asked me to sit and wait on the couch. She needed to use the restroom.
The next memory is of tears. My mother’s. “I lost the baby Chele.” (Chele is my nickname)
The baby. The baby that would have been my parent’s third child. Having no knowledge of gestational growth, I wondered if the baby was flushed down the toilet, full-term. I asked childish questions, and my mother answered with calming responses. It was unfamiliar to me, and a little scary. Whatever had happened had made my mother cry, and just like my shoes and my ballet tights; her tears, and her, were an odd pairing.
My mother in my youth was the embodiment of strength and beauty. When others took toys and projects to show and tell, I brought my mother. Head-strong, determined and fearless, she was loved by co-workers, employees and colleagues during her career as a Radiology Technologist, and then Director of Radiology. Outside of work she was a busy mother of three active children, a wife, and a helper of the less fortunate. (she had my little brother after the miscarriage)
In short, in my adolescent brain, she was a super-hero. Unstoppable. Unbreakable.
And super-heros don’t cry.
This is who she was to me. At home, and at work. And though she may have had very vulnerable and human moments behind closed doors with my father, I never saw them. Not frequently at least.
The super-hero persona and expectation I placed on her carried into adulthood. There are memories of tears and raw emotion; a breakdown after loosing a co-worker to cancer. Tears running down her cheek on the way to her grandmother’s house after she had passed. The onset of a migraine headache. Even still, after these fleeting moments, she always seemed to rebound back to the mom who had it all together. Super-hero resilience.
These days, my mother is different.
She is still head-strong and determined.
But some days, she is raw.
Life pulled itself out from under my parent’s feet with a nauseating blow. In the aftermath my mother’s health weakened, friendships and money lessened and tears and depression became common place. In this aftermath, I have been looking for a super-hero. I have been looking for the mom who could defeat anything. I have been expecting her to beat this, to move on with her head held high and her adversaries in the dust. At times, I have been angered at her willingness to give up.
I have also failed to acknowledge that she is in fact, not a super-hero. That she does break, that she can be defeated, that she will cry, and that she needs people to allow her to be human. That she needs her family to allow her just to be.
It is so easy to love and respect someone at their greatest. It is actual love when you allow them to have moments of weakness. Moments of uncertainty. Real, raw moments.
I have three boys who see me lose it monthly, if not weekly. In a culture that mommies exhaust themselves with creating a childhood of Pinterest magic and happiness, I often think that I am screwing these boys up.
They have a mom who cries frequently, has a hard time making decisions, and gets overwhelmed with sound volume in a room of people. They have a mother who talks bluntly and frankly to them. They have a mother who doesn’t rush to their aide every time they bump an elbow or get hurt. They know what my bad days look like.
Recently, I have come to peace with them seeing me vulnerable. That way, they can also see me victorious. Maybe one day my daughter-in-law will break, and my son(s) will know how to comfort her because their father comforted me. Maybe she will find herself unable to get out of bed and they will say “ok- today you don’t have to, let’s try again tomorrow.” Maybe I will save her from an expectation they carry into marriage about how a wife and mother should act. Hopefully they will allow her to feel everything, doubt often, love fiercely and be confident in who she is.
Hopefully, I am not screwing them up.
My mother didn’t screw me up either. Quiet the opposite. My mom had no way of knowing I would see her as unbreakable. Our parents wanted us to have amazing childhoods, lives; and we did and still do. It is also not her responsibility to wait until I allow her to hang up the super-hero cape. That’s on me. I am working on it. I should also let my husband retire his for awhile.
The holiday’s are upon us. A time for crazy expectations and super-hero mommas. What if you gave yourself the gift of not meeting everyone’s needs this year, just your own and the important, not immediate, needs of your children. What if you delegated and cut back on the stress of these next weeks? What if you hung up that tired and tattered cape and just gave your family…you. All of you. Rested, energized, sad, overwhelmed…just you.
It’s scary to think about.
If you are of Christian faith, rest in the knowledge that Christmas celebrates the birth of our children’s hero. We were never intended to fill Jesus’s role. We were intended just to be mothers. Hero roster filled and delivered in Bethlehem. We will fail them if we try. Because..human and all.
This is my beautiful mother-and my family. Much love this Holiday Season! -Courtney
PS. For real though…Did Mary know who she was about to birth-the hero of our souls?? She probably did. This is the perfect time for Penatonix in your life. Get tissues. Cause yeah- he makes everyone new.
~Mary Did You Know-Mark Lowery-Performed by Penatonix~
Mary did you know that your baby boy will some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.
Oh Mary did you know
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am