Being Mama When Baby gets Hurt

Yesterday, one of my precious, nearly two year old boys, fell off of and hit his face on the toy box he’d climbed. He fell so hard, his teeth went right through his upper lip and gouged the wood. Luckily, the cut is completely inside his mouth, the teeth involved seem fine, and he didn’t meet criteria for stitches. That said, his swollen upper lip looks like black and red hamburger meat inside and every time I look at his sweet face, my heart hurts.

One of the choices I’ve made for my children is to give them a great deal of freedom to explore their world, make mistakes, and learn. This often results in awesome photos of messy, happy kids running wild in the woods and fields around our home. They ride horses, play with our giant dog, pick up bugs, paddle board and kayak with us, and while they aren’t fearless, they are all quite independent for their respective ages. Most of the time, I feel confident in my approach.

Then something like this happens and that confidence crumbles a little more every time I conjure the image of my child sitting on the floor sobbing with blood covering his hands and running down his chin. I hold him close, I clean him up, and thoroughly investigate the injury. But even after determining a good rinse, some ice, and time will heal the wound, I know that another little piece of my heart is wounded in a way that won’t ever heal. This is motherhood. And I finally understand how my mama can so quickly recall and describe in excruciating detail every one of my own and my three brothers’ injuries throughout our childhood.

It’s a process, but after working my way over mountains of guilt and fear, I eventually find myself back where I started. Whenever possible, I want to give them more tools to successfully navigate the world. Only as a last resort do I want to make more rules or restrictions to prevent them from being hurt. Now is the time for them to take risks and experience the results. Now, while I’m here to scoop them up and make it okay. Now, while I’m able to create spaces for them to learn where even when they fail spectacularly, the ultimate risk is relatively low.

One day, my sweet, wild girl and boys will go out into the world without me or their dad there to kiss knees, rush them to urgent care, talk them through their options and possible outcomes, tell them no, cook for them, wash their clothes, and the list goes on. Motherhood is fun, painful, beautiful, terrifying, and exhilarating . . . but it’s also a job. And navigating the delicate balance between keeping my babies safe and preparing them to take on the world on their own is one of the hardest parts that job.

My Mama Bear

Today is my very first Mother’s Day.  My loves have run to the store while I laze about in pajamas drinking coffee and writing on our couch (Yes! Our couch is in the house!!  But that’s a post for another day).  In other words, I think Mother’s Day is a day I’m going to like.  I had planned to write about how much I love being a mother, but all the words swirling around in my soul at present moment are about my own mama, so here goes.

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(Me eating cookie dough while Mama Bear is attempting to make actual cookies)

I have always loved you, mama.  Yes, even that time I called you a butthole (mere moments before dad put a bar of soap in my mouth) for grounding me when I was sure it was completely the brothers’ fault.  Yes, even when you used to use the Vulcan death pinch on my shoulder to get me to leave church quietly when I was misbehaving.  And yes, even that time in high school when you told me you believed me that I wasn’t doing drugs but I was going to be at the wrong place at the wrong time one day and I was so angry I called a friend and spent twenty minutes reciting everything I didn’t like about you, not knowing you could hear.  Only to be picked up by the police two weeks later.  At least I really wasn’t lying about the drugs, right?

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And I have never doubted your love for me.  After all, I remember you singing songs with me in the car while we went to the hot springs and everyone else was at school and work.   I remember your hugs (always and still the best) smelled like your violet perfume when I was growing up.  I remember you cheering me on at basketball games–a sport neither of us particularly understood or cared for.  I remember you taking me to every mall on the I-5 corridor looking for the perfect prom dress and shoes.  I remember you crying when I tried to sing in church a few months after surgery to remove my thyroid cancer and I couldn’t.  I remember you buying me a blanket that felt like my dogs’ fur when I was in radioactive iodine isolation.  I remember declaring I was going on a spirit quest and while everyone else looked at me oddly and said nothing, you sewed me a medicine bag.  I remember too many memories of you showing your love to list them here.

It’s strange to think that no matter how much we love someone or how well we know them, there are always parts and pieces we never get to see.  Having a daughter of my own, has given me new eyes and, with them, I see a facet of you I haven’t before.  You are incredible.  And not just for keeping four, adventuresome but not always wise, children alive into adulthood.

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How you managed to create so much love, fun, and happiness with so little under such difficult conditions over the years is nothing short of magic.  How you did all that while working and going to school, I will never understand.  I already admired your strength.  I already thought you were warm and giving.  I already thought I knew you.  But this one baby has broken my heart with love and fear and when I think of you now, with all of us and all we’ve been through, I am in awe of your warmth, humor, resilience, and grace.

So, on my first Mother’s Day, I want to tell you again that I love you and to tell you again that I thank you for everything because I truly do.  But I also want to tell you, that this year, I see you a little better, I understand a little more about how much of yourself you have given to us, and I am humbled by all you have accomplished and all that you are.  You are a blessing to our family, Mama Bear, Happy Mother’s Day.  : )

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