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someday you'll thank me

Things I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t had children


Mother’s Day is one of my favorite days of the year. I spend much of the day with my family, but I also spend time reminiscing about my life as a mother. One discovery I have made about motherhood is that there are many things I would not know if I hadn’t had children. This list of lessons seems to grow longer as my daughters age, so I will offer just a few. Otherwise, this column could go on forever.
My first discovery about motherhood was that a pregnant woman can defy the laws of gravity. About two months before our first daughter was born, I had an encounter with a mouse that ran between my feet when I opened the pantry door. I was so frightened that I leapt onto the sofa, which was several feet away. How I managed to travel that distance through the air and land safely without going into labor is still a mystery to me.
My second discovery was that new mothers can get by on little to no sleep if they must. I was only 24 when our first daughter was born, so I don’t know if this statement is true for older moms. For several weeks after her birth, our daughter had mixed up her days and nights, so sleep became a rare but precious commodity for me. The first time she slept through the night, I woke up before she did and rushed into her room, fearful that something was wrong. Instead, I found her sound asleep in her crib. She eventually became the best napper and all-night sleeper any mother could ask for.
My third discovery was that children will let you read books to them all day if you are willing and able to do so. I read to my girls from the day I brought them home from the hospital, and they gradually developed an affinity for certain books. While I loved reading “Mother Goose,” “The Runaway Bunny,” and anything by Dr. Seuss, I could easily have misplaced “The Roly-Poly Puppy” and never shed a tear. The last books I remember reading to my daughters were “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “The Catcher in the Rye,” the latter probably chosen by my older daughter because of Holden Caulfield’s frequent use of profanity.
One of my more interesting and unexpected discoveries involved clothing. Apparently, once you become a mother, your clothes are no longer merely garments to wear. They serve any number of purposes, depending on the age or needs of your child. A newborn looks at your blouse and sees a handy place to drool or throw up. A toddler looks at the bottom of your dress and sees a convenient handkerchief for wiping her nose, as my younger daughter did one day when we were out shopping. A teenager glances at your attire and decides you are dressed too much like a nerdy mom and walks ahead of you in public, pretending she doesn’t know who you are.
As my daughters have grown older, I have discovered that watching certain movies with them on Mother’s Day can elicit a variety of emotions. If we watch “Mommie Dearest,” we alternate between laughing hysterically at Faye Dunaway’s melodramatic performance as Joan Crawford and quietly fearing that Crawford’s daughter wrote an honest account of their relationship. If we watch “I Remember Mama,” we cry when Mama (portrayed by Irene Dunne) pretends to be a cleaning woman in order to sneak into her daughter’s hospital room after surgery, and we laugh when Mama discovers that the family’s “dead” cat is very much alive.
Perhaps the most important and enduring lesson I have learned as a mother is a simple truth my daughters have known since they were born: that everything in life is a source of wonder. When I became a mother, my entire perspective on life changed. I began to look at the world through the eyes of my children, who still see beauty in everything. Sunsets and snow demand our attention. Holidays are magical. Books are meant to be read and revered.
No matter how many lessons this mother has taught her daughters, I can promise you the number of lessons they have taught me is incalculable.