The Baby Book Led Me Astray

Me, Cadence, Elaine. January 14, 2013

My daughter’s been on my mind lately. She was here, just a few days ago, on a too-quick visit to claim her firstborn and return with him to the family’s new home on Guam. We squeezed a whole lot of living into those few days, talking and eating and hugging and wiping tears, here and there, and then they were gone. 
I’m left with this realization: Her baby book sold me a bill of goods about the big moments in a mother’s life. That book, you know, well, it had space to record the details of her first smile, first laugh, first tooth, first steps, first day of school, and just about every other significant moment in a child’s life.
Until age five. And apparently, according to the folks who create baby books, nothing noteworthy happens after the first day of kindergarten. Oh, sure, kids get driver’s licenses. They graduate from high school. They get jobs, they go to college, they marry. 
Over the past decade or so, we’ve been through all kinds of firsts that never occurred to me when I was holding a cooing, warm, pink bundle all those years ago. Most of them have been exciting, special moments. 
The truth is, the richness and depth of mothering goes far beyond the last “first” you record in the baby book. 

Some of these special moments were heartbreaking.

In September of 2001, we grieved together as peers as our nation suffered a stupendous tragedy at the hands of terrorists. Sure, we’d mourned together before, her and me, but this time, for the first time, we stood on equal footing as our tears fell. 
I knew enough to anticipate her wedding day with joy. (A whole separate memory book can be devoted to a wedding, you know.) Nothing prepared me, though, for the warmth that would flood over me, the sneaky tears that swelled unbidden, the first time my son-in-law called me “Mom.” 

Mothering an adult is leaky business, I tell you. 

I remember the first time she asked my advice about a tricky aspect of parenting. She listened respectfully, thanked me, then chose a different course. And everything worked out just beautifully. I was so proud. 
I’ve heard it said that we don’t really grow up until we become parents. More and more, I’m thinking that we don’t really grow up until our children do. 
What I really need, I think, is a memory book to treasure the firsts our children bring us after they’re grown. 
Truly, though, I already have one. It’s beating within me. 

2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (ESV)

Thursday, January 24: I’m sharing with my friend Emily Wierenga‘s Thursday community, Imperfect Prose, where the prompt this week is “mother.” You’ll stop in, won’t you please?