I used to have a little book of quotes about motherhood that, along with Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown Jr., I kept on a tiny three-legged table in the powder room, stacked neatly on top of a few National Geographic Magazines. The pair of books paid equal homage to the males and females using our facilities, and besides, I figured that anyone staying in our bathroom long enough to read should at least try to enrich themselves while they’re at it.
I got the book years ago as a baby shower gift from someone I can’t really remember. Perhaps I was feeling a pre-natal hormone surge, but I do recall being touched by the thoughtfulness of the gift, and envisioned my family pondering its inspirational quotes and finding newfound appreciation for their loving matriarch for years to come.
When our military family moved from place to place, I had the movers pack up the books along with other bathroom accessories — a wicker tissue box cover, a decorative soap dispenser, fingertip towels, a little dish for matches, and the three-legged table — and in every new location, I faithfully placed the little motherhood book back in its traditional spot.
Despite the fact that this routine went on for about 15 years, reality is, the book’s binding remained crisp because no one in my family was interested. Admittedly, the few times I tried to read the book, it bored me to tears.
Page after page of heartfelt reflections on the nurturing bond between mother and child. A couple pages into it, reading the back of the antibacterial soap bottle seemed far more entertaining than suffering through such corny drivel.
Believe me, I have experienced the indescribable joys and deep-rooted connections unique to motherhood. I have felt every saccharinely trite, mawkishly sentimental, cloyingly schmaltzy emotion when mothering my own children.
However, as the mother of three teenagers [pray for me] outward displays of such corny sentimentality are not well received, unless that is, I want to see my kids’ eyes rolling, which I most certainly do not. My teenage son doesn’t understand why I like to smooch his prickly cheeks. My middle child thinks it’s weird that I breathe in her hair with my eyes closed. My youngest doesn’t get why I regularly stop in the hallway to sigh at the baby photo of her sitting in the kitchen sink.
No little book of mush will make them understand what I know. I have learned over the years that appreciation for motherhood is best felt, not described in words on a Mother’s Day card or in a book on a three-legged table in the bathroom.
The only way to fully comprehend the instinctual and emotional feelings of motherhood is to experience parenthood for oneself. Thankfully, my three teenagers are too wrapped up in their headphones and toenail color to consider procreation anytime in the next decade.
So I will have to wait for true appreciation.
For the time being, I will be patient. I will try to let it go when they act like Mother’s Day is a hassle. I will pretend I didn’t hear them say, incredulously, “What do you mean we’re going to early church because we have to take Mom to brunch?!” I will smile and thank them when they give me a card they hastily picked up from 7-11, and grocery store cut flowers even though it is common knowledge that I prefer potted plants. And I will bite my lip when my teenage son blurts out his brunch order before mine.
We mothers must wait for the day when our children experience parenthood for themselves, and continue to hope that they’ll finally get it. No, they probably won’t come running back to us to show their undying love and appreciation, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll stop being the first ones to let go when we hug them.