My mother told me when my daughter, my first child, was born, “Take a good look at that tiny little baby in your arms and know this: She will break your heart a thousand times”. Doesn’t that seem like horrible advice for a mother to give? She was right, though.
As the years have passed I have learned exactly what my mother was trying to warn me of. The inevitable.
It started in the hospital when she born. She had an infection that required rounds of IV antibiotics. The nurses had to reinsert an IV several times and the pain my heart felt each time they stuck my little baby with a needle was unbearable. It took a lot to keep myself from tackling the nurses! This is something I would experience through every round of treatments for an illness or vaccinations.
The first time I had to leave my child with a sitter, she was only 6 weeks old. I have never cried so much in my entire life and I was late for work that day because I had to pull the car over several times not being able to see through the tears in my eyes. I called to check on her every hour on the hour. Preschool should have been easier by age two, but when she cried for me as I left her in the classroom; I felt my heart shatter to a thousand pieces. The teachers urged me to go and not look back because I would make it worse for both of us. Oh it got worse! By the end of the week, she didn’t even look back to wave bye bye. I cried again because she didn’t miss me.
Her first day of big school, she was so brave. She was talkative and excited until we got to the hallway and she sat in line with the other kids. I tried to stay, but again, the teachers urged parents not to linger. I looked back at her quivering lips and glistening eyes, knowing she was trying so hard not to cry. Whether she wanted to cry for herself, or for me, I'll never know. I waved and she waved back. I was so proud of her.
One day she did not come home on her school bus. You know what the longest 30 minutes of my life has been? It was the 30 minutes that I couldn’t find my daughter. The substitute teacher placed my four year old in the wrong line and she stayed in the school gym with the ‘car riders’. When I found her, she was all alone sitting there, waiting for me. (The school suffered the wrath of mom and some people lost their jobs.)
My son did not attend a preschool or stay with a sitter until he was four and on his first day of pre-kindergarten, he didn’t bat an eye. “Bye Mom!” Of course, I bawled all the way home. Now, at age seven, I am not allowed to hug or kiss him in front of his friends. He’s growing up and my heart breaks every first day of school for the both of them.
Of course, my children don’t mean to break my heart, but I believe a mother’s heart is strong enough to break.
I’ve heard, “I hate you” on several occasions. Once because I said they couldn’t have a cell phone yet! They also hate me because they don’t like being grounded, but it’s our job as parents to discipline them so that they will learn. The first time it was said, it hurt and I cried. Where did they learn this word, hate? It scared me, but as time went by and I recalled my own childhood, it deemed normal behavior and only gives me insight to the teenage years when boundaries will be tested, rebellion will happen, and my heart will break many times more. But just like I know my own mother never loved me any less for any pain that I didn’t mean to cause her, I know that my love will not fault either. I’ve sat at my Mom’s table and apologized for the things I’d done, and thanked her for all she’s done for me.
I know that one day my children will understand it all themselves. I know that my heart will break many times more as I watch them grow and I hope it is mostly for the good things like their first school dance, first relationship and first break up, driving, graduating, and marrying. Ah, the bittersweetness of parenthood.