Mom Is a Three-Letter Word
I remember the day I became a mother. It was March 24, 1999. I remember the day I became a father. It was February 13, 2002. That was the day my husband died and my world as I knew it ended. We were in a car accident, the three of us, my husband, son and I. My husband was killed instantly. He was only thirty-three. My son was not yet three at the time. After being released from the hospital, here I was physically injured, mentally crippled looking at this little boy standing between my legs bombarding me with questions. “Why was I covered in blood, Mommy?” “Why were you screaming?” “Mark, wake up!” “Why are you crying?” “Where’s Daddy?” I realized then I was no longer just his mother; I was his mother and his father from that day forward and for the rest of his life.
And thus began my journey as a dual parent. I wasn’t a single parent. I was an only parent and somehow I had to be nurturing and tough at the same time. I’m not saying that moms are always the nurturing ones and dads are the disciplinarians, far from it. We moms can kick metaphorical butt when needed and my husband was a hugger! But I loved my role as the one who laid beside our baby at night and sang him songs, as the one who curled up with him when he couldn’t sleep, as the one who let him watch Hercules five times in a row, as the one who thought it was perfectly okay that our son wasn’t really going to be the athletic type, and the one who used her shirt sleeve to wipe his nose because this was our baby boy and his disgusting snot was absolutely not disgusting (ok, it was and I really should have been better at keeping tissues handy but you do what you have to do and for crying out loud, I couldn’t think of everything, I was tired!).
But so it was to be my lot that I would somehow have to manage to do all those things and find it within myself to be stern and forceful. I would need to expose my son to bouncing balls, rolling balls, hockey pucks but also art and music. How was I going to do Dad things with him and Mom things? Who would take him to Boy Scouts? Who was going to build that dreaded volcano every kid has to build in school? I didn’t know how to do that. Who was going to assemble all those toys that require an engineering degree? Oh, wait, I have an engineering degree. Who was going to assemble all those toys that require you remember what you learned with your engineering degree? And why does A never really fit into B? And why is there always a piece missing? I’ll tell you why! It’s to make women like me angry and frustrated and remind us that we are all alone and miserable and have forgotten everything we learned in college and we are all alone and miserable…did I say that already? Okay, so maybe that’s a stretch but I didn’t want to do these things. That’s why I got married so my husband could take care of all that stuff (oh and there was that whole love thing).
But somehow I rallied and assembled with the best of them and things got built and balls were bounced and songs were sung and kisses were given and stern words were said and wisdom was imparted. And ten years later, our son turned out just fine. Even with all my concerns of whether I was being a good mother and father. Should I really have let him eat chicken nuggets for breakfast because I was just too tired to find proper food? Was it okay that I skipped Boy Scouts because I really didn’t want to earn badges and sell popcorn? Was it okay that I turned him into a lover of Broadway and show tunes because the only way I got to enjoy those things was to take him with me? And did I make a mistake letting him see a PG-13 movie so young because he loved Spiderman?
I don’t think so. The one common ground we mothers and fathers have is love. We’d jump in front of a train for our kids because we love them more than our own lives. I pour on the love and do the best I can with what I have. I make sure our son knows he is loved by both of us. I make sure he has clothes and food and a roof over his head. I make sure he does his homework, plays in the sunshine, and eats other things besides chicken nuggets, like pizza. But most importantly, I make sure he is kind, compassionate, open, tolerant, loving, and a true gentleman like his father.
Somehow, my son and I figured out a way to embrace our family of two. I make mistakes constantly, learning lessons along the way, and continue stumbling through this bizarre thing called parenthood. My son is almost thirteen and is this amazing kid so I must have done something right. Isn’t that all we can really hope for? My only goal when I gave birth was not to screw him up in some horrible way and have to visit him in prison. When my husband was alive at least I knew there would be someone else to blame if we did have to make those Sunday visits. When he died, I knew it was all on me. Somehow, someway, through the grace of chicken nuggets and assembly instructions that actually did work, I did it. So far, so good and that’s the best feeling in the world as a mother!