I never expected to raise my children without my mom. I adored my mom, and it still rocks me to my core that I lost her when my two oldest children were four and one. My mom never even met my youngest child.
Sometimes it feels like too much. How do I even attempt to be a mother when my own mother is no longer a phone call, a text, a quick drive away?
And then, I see the sheer delight in my children’s faces when they see me first thing in the morning. My toddler giggles and bounces and raises his arms when I come to get him from his crib. My 6-year-old opens her eyes, smiles, and says, “Mommy!” My oldest, while always a bit grumpy in the morning, still comes in for a full hug.
Not only do they need me, but my children want me.
I remember clamoring for my mom’s attention. I remember trying to break through the wall of her depression and often just crawling in bed with her, safe with her arm wrapped around my waist. I always wanted more but gladly accepted what she could give.
No matter what, though, I always knew she adored me.
My children are no different than I was, in that respect. They claim what they can.
My oldest wants to tell me about his latest LEGO RV creation while I flip the salmon patties in the pan. My daughter wants to sit at the kitchen counter and share her stream of consciousness thoughts about first-grade life. And, as we like to say, “the baby is a baby.”
Breast cancer took my mom in tiny quantities.
First with her diagnosis when my oldest was only seven months old, then through two stages of treatment and an initial remission. Even in remission, I lost her to her fear that the cancer would return. And, finally, her fears were realized the summer my daughter was born. We had that one last, beautiful summer, and then, the rest was a slow decline.
Even in her illness, I wanted nothing more than her company. So, I convinced her to get her nails done while sitting in her wheelchair. I snuggled in her recliner with her whenever we visited. I texted her throughout most of every day. Like my own children, I wanted as much as my mom could give me, even in the smallest pieces.
I understand my children.
My need for my own mom did not vanish in adulthood.
On her good days, I wanted to sit near her as she prepared a meal. I wanted to show her my latest writing piece or photograph. I wanted to tell her my stream of consciousness thoughts as a middle school teacher and mom of small children. I wanted a hug.
I was delighted when she walked into a room. I held my arms open for her embrace.
Her hug solved every problem.
And so, in the harder moments of parenting, and there are many, while I cannot call my mom and ask for help, I can remember what my mom gave me while she could.
In the kitchen with my oldest where he often helps prepare dinner, we talk through how to time the meal, and my son asks for help when he cannot reach the stove or when he needs advice about how to combine two ingredients.
With my daughter, I listen to her detailed stories, and I ask her questions.
I snuggle the toddler.
I constantly tell my children how much I adore them, to the point that when I ask my daughter if she knows how much I love her, she tells me, “You love me all the numbers, Mama.”
And my daughter is right.
In the chaos of all of her own issues and all of life’s demands, I knew the ferocity of my mom’s love.
Though I can no longer call my mom for the daily questions (Honestly, do I need canola oil or vegetable oil? I can never remember.), my mom gave me everything I needed to know about being a mom.
She taught me that mothers love their children through every challenge and phase—theirs or mine.
She taught me to always let my children know how very adored they are.
I adored her in return.
When I go to pick up the baby from his crib, my eyes are just as bright as his. When I see my daughter first thing in the morning, I’m thrilled to see her smile. Anytime my oldest gives me a hug, I need it as much as he does.
We delight in each other, and that’s all we need. My mom taught me that.