All of my growing up years, as far back as I can remember, I was fascinated by babies. I loved them. I couldn’t get enough of them, and like many little girls, I dreamed of the day I would be a mother.
As the oldest of 6 kids, I got in lots of practice and really honed my skills. Heck – I even washed out poopy diapers in the toilet. I was doing overnight babysitting from the time I was 15. Mothering was going to be a breeze.
I was 22 years old when my oldest was born (26 years ago, but who’s counting). I remember looking at his cute little face and wondering if I could teach him all the things he would need to know about life, about love and how to navigate this big, scary world of ours.
What I did not know then is how much my children would teach me.
For example, I have learned that teenage boys can eat unearthly amounts of food and be hungry 2 hours later. One of my sons once ate 32 pancakes and 12 sausages at one sitting. Another ate 29 pieces of pizza for one meal. And they kept it down. Impressive! And not in any book I ever read.
I learned that teenage girls can actually eat almost as much as the boys.
My kids have taught me that remembering to flush the toilet is actually much harder than it sounds.
I have learned not to underestimate teenage girls abilities to outperform boys in belching contests.
I have learned that whining is an art form in which kids desire to excel, therefore practice relentlessly.
I have also learned that even though my response to the whining never changes, there is some odd internal motivation that prompts them to try, try again.
I have learned that the birds and the bees talk is not actually that scary or that hard, especially for a mom who is also a midwife.
My children have lovingly taught me that there is no such thing as a pair of socks that will stay mated longer than the time it takes a new pair to come from the car into the house.
They have also taught me that “clean” is a relative term when it comes to clothes, floors, countertops and well – pretty much every job.
And who knew that walls make SUCH fine places to deposit one’s boogers….
I learned that “sleeping through the night” is a great milestone for babies but a fantasy for mothers.
I have also learned that a 15-minute power nap can work wonders.
My children have taught me that texting is not a tool of the devil and neither is Facebook. Or blogging. Or Instagram.
They have taught me that “sick” and “tight” are good things – and so is “bad”, especially if it is followed by the letter A. I was quite pleased, therefore, when one of my teens told me recently: “Mom, you’re pretty Bad A”.
I learned to be comfortable in the public eye because of my children. As the mother of multi-colored family of 24 children, 20 adopted from 8 different countries, with a couple in wheelchairs, “under the radar” does not exist for us.
I have learned how to gracefully answer less than tactful questions because of my kids:
Yes, I know what causes it. The Internet.
No, it’s not a preschool.
No, my miscarriages don’t mean God thinks my family is big enough.
Why yes, I am glad it’s me and not you.
My children have taught me to be a master at multi-tasking. A master.
Because of our very large family, I have learned how to octuple recipes and how to drive a bus.
I have learned to let go of fantasies of a perfect home and crafts that take hours to complete.
I have learned how to sew a pair of pajama pants in 20 minutes flat.
I have learned that as a family, we can bottle 5 bushels of peaches in an afternoon.
I have learned it’s cheaper to buy the annual family pass than it is to buy individual admission tickets to the zoo or the water park.
I have learned that racism and other forms of discrimination still bubble and ferment in our society.
Gratefully, I have also learned that they are the exception, not the rule.
My children have taught me being a mother is far more than a biological tie.
I have also learned that there are traits tied to genetics that have nothing to do with environment. We have children who are very musically gifted and some who are star athletes, some who would put A-list fashion designers to shame and others who have an amazing talent in photography. They were born with those talents and they have taught me what a joy it is to watch them unfold.
I have learned to be a strong woman, starting the moment I stood toe to toe with a screaming man telling me I was a selfish American woman for wanting to adopt a child with Down Syndrome from a Romanian orphanage.
I brought that child home.
I have learned what it means to be the mother of children with disabilities, both seen and unseen.
I have learned that the BEST advocate for my children is ME.
I have learned relentless determination because I became a mother. (Some might call that stubbornness – that works too.)
I have learned what the phrase “Mama Bear” means – and I promise – you do NOT want to be messing with one of my cubs.
I have learned that the highest highs and the lowest lows of my life have come because of my children.
Although I did not want to, I have learned the meaning of grief and sorrow when much wanted pregnancies ended in miscarriages, and when not once or twice, but 4 times we have had to bury precious daughters, disabled in the world’s eyes, perfect in ours.
I have learned there is grief even more profound than having a child die.
I have also learned that no matter how deep and dark and soul-crushing the sorrow, a better, brighter day always comes.
I have learned to have flexible, realistic expectations and I have learned that the cliché is true: No two children are the same.
I have learned and am constantly re-learning how to let go of things that do not matter and focus ever more clearly on the ones that do.
I have learned for myself that love does not divide when shared among many – it multiplies.
I have learned there is always room for one more – in our hearts and in our home.
My children have taught me and will undoubtedly continue to teach me that motherhood is the hardest work you’ll ever love.
No matter how hard the road or how tough the lesson I have learned, I would never trade what being a Mom has taught me.
It’s Bad A.