The trick that motherhood plays


He says it now. Mama. It flows freely from his mouth and it’s still so new that my heart still leaps when I hear it. Naturally, I love that of all of the possible first words, the universe of things he loves, trucks and snacks and planes, he chose to form his mouth around ‘Mama.’ I joke that every one of his future girlfriends will know this piece of our history. He says ‘Mama’ and reaches the part of me that wants to be needed and called by name. The part from which all of my mothering blossoms. He says ‘mama’ and my mind and heart finally agree yes, this is it. This is what we wanted. This is life.


She’s crossed the threshold into five. Big kid with big clothes, big toys, big life. But she’s not quite ready to jump to the next level. Not quite ready for any more independence and growing and pulling away. So she asks to be carried. And she melts before bed. She’s staring into the giant landscape of new and change and bigger things and she’s clinging to what brings her comfort. And when she reaches for me, begs for me to tuck her in, curls up in my lap at the end of a long day, my mind and heart finally agree yes, this is it. This is what we wanted. This is life.


Of course, the needing, it does hurt. That old Skin Horse knew what he was talking about. It does hurt to be loved so much that your hair has been loved off and you look worn and shabby. After a day of a million ‘mamas’ I am painfully Real. I collapse into bed, drained in every which way and wondering if I have enough in me to give it all again, and more, tomorrow.

The days feel like endless rings spinning on an endless loop. Over and over, we run the same race, stumbling in the same places.

In motherhood, so many moments feel endless. Those early, hazy days and sleepless nights, nursing them for hours in the dark, I didn’t believe that time would ever end. Hoisting babies onto my hip, into car seats, shopping carts and strollers. I’m here now and this is life, isn’t it? My life will now be spent carrying small people from one place to the next, keeping them so close, my arms circled around them. I’ll forever wake well before the sun and welcome the day with a party of small feet drumming on the floor. I’ll always end my days by brushing someone else’s teeth and tucking blankets around tiny bodies.

It’s the trick that motherhood plays. She lures us into thinking that this moment, this phase, this time in our lives will last forever. Because otherwise, we’d be so overwhelmed with just how fleeting it is that we’d never put them down. We’d cradle them in our arms all night long and carry them on our hips as long as the sun shined for fear that once we put them down, they’ll never come back up.

family and tree

After a day of a million ‘mamas’ I don’t see the day in my future when I pick her up for the last time. I don’t believe in the moment when he doesn’t sit on my lap and rest a head of curls on my shoulder. When I am running on fumes and just wishing for the day to end, these moments are not real to me.

But sometimes, I see through the trick. I peek behind the curtain and see the illusion for what it is. The weight of his sweet little head on my shoulders brings me solidly into this moment when he is still small enough to sit on my lap and suddenly I can see the future. I see that this time eventually passes. Crib moves out to make space for a bed. Glider is carried out my front door to a new home, a new family beginning their journey into fleeting moments that feel like forever. There are these moments when I see it. I see the real future, the one in which they grow and change and no moment lasts forever.

kids and waterfall

The moment when I see it, the real future, is just as fleeing as every other moment in my life. It evaporates as soon as I catch it. But the memory of it lingers. My mind moves on, focuses on the things to do, the lists and the busyness. But my heart carries the torch. This is it. This is what we wanted. This is life. Don’t miss it.


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