For the first four or five years after I had children, I considered motherhood a temporary condition-not a calling. It was a time of my life set aside for exhaustion and long hours. It would pass. Then one afternoon with three kids in tow, I came out of the supermarket pushing a cart (with four wheels that went in opposite directions) when my toddler son got away from me.
Just outside the door, he ran toward a machine holding bubble gum in a glass dome. In a voice that shattered glass, he shouted, "Gimme! Gimme!" I told him I would gimmie him what-for if he didn't stop shouting and get in the car. As I physically tried to pry his body from around the bubble gum machine, he pulled the entire thing over. Glass and balls of bubble gum went all over the parking lot. We had now attracted a crowd. Donna Reed would have brushed away his tears and granted him absolution on the spot. I wasn't Donna Reed. I told him he would never see another cartoon as long as he lived, and if he didn't control his temper he was going to be making license plates for the state. He tried to stifle his sobs as he looked around at the staring crowd. Then he did something that I was to remember the rest of my life. In his helpless quest for comfort, he turned to the only one he trusted his emotions with-me. He threw his arms around my knees and held on for dear life. I had humiliated him, chastised him and berated him, but I was still all he had. That single incident defined my role. I was a major force in this child's life. Sometimes we forget how important stability is to a child. I've always told mine, "The easiest part of being a mother is giving birth. The hardest part is showing up for it each day."
This is traditionally the day when children give something back to their mothers for all the spit they produced to wash dirty faces, all the old gum their mothers held in their hands, all the noses and fannies that were wiped, and all the bloody knees that were " made well" with a kiss. This is the day mothers are rewarded for washing all those sheets in the middle of the night, driving kids to school when they missed the bus and enduring all the football games in the rain. It's appreciation day for making them finish something, not believing them when they said, "I hate you," and for sharing their good times and their bad times. Their cards probably won't reflect it, but what they are trying to say is "Thank you for showing up."