I was proposed to for only the second time in my life this week. My special someone told me she loved me “soooo much” before planting a sloppy kiss on my cheek. She gave me her favorite snap bracelet in place of a ring. “Marry me!” she said, and, before I could respond, “Will you be my mommy forever?”
Different from but just exactly like the time your father proposed: I thought my heart would burst with all the love it felt. So I told you.
I love you soooo much, too, Elbee – even if I can’t marry you. And, yes. I’ll be your mommy forever.
For better or worse, I thought.
Someday – someday too soon – there will come that moment when you’ll forget why it is that you liked me so much. And I won’t be able to shake the way you used to. I’ll give you advice you never asked for, praise your accomplishments in front of some kid you were trying to impress by the way you’re super cool, embarrass you for my taste in “terrible” music. You’ll wish you had some other mommy – but you’ll be stuck with me. I promise.
Additionally, I vow:
- To hear you, to really listen. From the start, I’ve found you impossible to ignore. From those sweet little kicks in my swollen belly to new baby cries to temper tantrums to school friends to first loves to the first time somebody breaks your heart to the thing you tell me because you just want someone to be crazy-proud to the 2:00am phone call when you’re off and on your own but not alone. Not really alone, right? Please not alone. Somewhere there’s a mother… She sleeps light.
- To respect you, your experience, your perspective. There isn’t a doubt in my mind I won’t always get it. But I’m going to try. The other day you told me you wanted to be a princess: the kind who wears a tiara and a pink dress. Look, I’ve never aspired to the crown (except for those couple of weeks when I was five and somebody bought me a She-ra costume). By the power of Grayskull, I aspire to be a supportive mom. And so I asked a lot of curious questions about your castle and made believe I was one of your minions. You were overjoyed for the opportunity to boss me around. And you were stunned: “But, Ma, you’re usually a superhero.” I’m always a superhero, kid. My superhero name is “Mama.” My special power is mothering. The thing is sometimes, as when I know how much it means to my child, I make-believe I’m a duchess. I’m really terrible at it. You don’t seem to notice.
- To say yes to experiences that will cause you to feel, to think, to grow. To expose you to people and things and places and moments that challenge and inspire. To get the heck out of your way, to stand back and admire your life unfolding just exactly as it should. Paint a picture. Play a sport. Get a job. Make a friend. Study abroad. (I’ll visit. You’ll show me around.) Apply to grad school.
- To let you fail sometimes. Raised your hand in class and provided the wrong answer? I’m proud of you. You. Raised. Your. Hand. You had something to say. And I’ll wager you’ll get the answer next time. Tried out for the lead in the school play and wound up in the chorus line? Great: You tried out, didn’t you? I’ll be as proud and cheer as loud when the curtain falls. Applied to some fellowship and got waitlisted? Nice. You applied. You did that. And may no child of mine spend her days what-iffing. The pursuit of dreams is something special.
- To say no. To put my foot down. To pick my battles. Can I have this Barbie? Hell no. What about a tattoo? I’ll think about it. My “no’s” are strategic, rendered where I suspect (or have absolutely no doubt) that they’re in your best interest.
- To observe appropriate boundaries. I don’t need a hug. I just want one. Also, I’ll only read your journal if I have grave concern for your life, health or safety. I make no pretenses: Some things really are none of my business. And some things that are now, won’t be forever. Read: When you move out this house, go ahead: Treat yourself to that Barbie.
- To tell the truth. There are some things you learn in elementary school that, if you promptly forget them, won’t matter in the grand scheme of things – except it’s too soon to tell what those things are, so it’s a good idea to pay attention. That pet isn’t living on a farm somewhere; he’s living in your memory. Texting while driving is dangerous. People get sick sometimes. When we’re through living (and sometimes when we’re nowhere close to through living) we die. Nobody really has a clue what happens next. Some people think they know. They call that faith.
- To tell my truth. And speaking of marriage, I think it’s between two people who can hack it. Straight, gay…G-d love ’em. You’ll find your place where you put it. Hillary 2016!
- To be right here waiting, no hesitating, to catch up once you realize I’m maybe not so bad and Big Country’s “In a Big Country” is the greatest single of all time. I think you’re alright. I probably-definitely always will.
I love you, ladybug,
Your mama forever.