One evening a few weeks ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table tinkering with settings on the back-end of this blog. It was after dinner and the Minions were transitioning  from the high energy of an active summer day to the slower pace of the evening. Jordan came to me and said, “Mommy, I know you said it’s time for us to settle down, but may we please build a tent in me and Jaiden’s room and use the stools from the bar to do it? And could we all sleep in there tonight?”

Taking a split second to consider the mess I would undoubtedly wake up to the next morning, I barely glanced away from the computer screen and said, “Sure. Find a way to get your tent draped over your TV, and I’ll hook up the DVD player from the playroom in there so you guys can watch a movie in there tonight. When you’re ready, I’ll bring you guys some popcorn and juice boxes.”

Instead of cheering and running to tell the others like I expected him to do, Jordan burst into tears and rushed into me, burying his face in my chest as audible sobs shook his 8-year old body.

Completely taken off guard, I wrapped my arms around him and concernedly asked why he was crying.

“I’m just so…so…I can’t explain it.” Whatever emotion he was feeling seemed to intensify, and I could tell that he was scrambling to find the words to match whatever was in his sensitive heart.

” Just try your best, JoJo. Say whatever comes to your mind.”

“I’m just so…happy that you’re my mom.” His voice escalated into a higher pitch and another barrage of sobs stirred through his words as he said, “Thank you and Daddy for making me borned.”

I squeezed him tighter to me and tears of my own found their way to my eyes. All I could manage to squeak out past the lump that had risen in my throat was, “Oh, honey….”

In a moment’s time, a hundred thoughts and counter-thoughts rushed through me, each one colored differently by how his words refracted through the faceted prism of my mind. What could I say to him? How could I find the right words to clarify my feelings to him? I thought,

Don’t credit me with too much, son; I was lucky that YOU were given to US. I am no more responsible for you being my son than I am responsible for making the sun rise each day. But is that exactly true? Daddy and I WANTED to have another baby and you were created with an intent to love you already in our hearts. You existed before you existed because we believed/felt/prayed/hoped that you would come to us. Thank YOU for choosing us to be your parents. But what does THAT mean? That isn’t right, either, because believing, feeling, praying, and hoping does not a parent make. If only it did. Childlessness and infertility is not caused because spirits on the other side of heaven never choose a woman to be born to. Infertility just IS, and there is no rhyme or reason to it. I asked ‘Why me?’ when I couldn’t get pregnant. Now I ask (again), ‘Why me?’  Why were we lucky, when it seems that so many others are overlooked?

I cried harder, tears on behalf of my sisters and brothers in infertility mixing in with my mother-after-infertility tears. I pushed aside that train of thought because I’ve learned and re-learned time and time again that asking ‘Why me?’ and expecting an answer is a futile effort. Then, words for the dominant side of my emotions were beginning to take shape:

My dear, dear child. I am unworthy of your grateful tears. I am not all that I could be to you. Sometimes I only half-listen and pretend to be fully invested when your stories run on a bit too long. The ratio of your clean clothes to dirty is almost perpetually imbalanced. I think I let you watch too much TV and play video games for too long sometimes. I tell you to clean your room more often than I straighten up my own. I could get up and cook you breakfast more often instead of letting you make bowls of cereal for yourself. There are things I know I do well as your mother, but there are so, so many things I could better. I do not deserve this degree of adoration, this degree of love which has stitched your breath and moved you to tears. Will you still think the same of me when time and maturity sweeps the curtain of a child’s unconditional love away from your eyes and reveals me as just the person that I am and not the great and powerful (and faultless) being you perceive me to be?

I felt like a charlatan, one who at best could only one day hope to be as good as what he already thought I was.

Then, words my mother has often said echoed: My children are the testament to my greatness. Growing up, I never interpreted her statement as being boastful. She essentially raised us as a single mother and did a damned fine job doing it. She raised my sisters and me to be intelligent, respectful, generous, open, well-rounded, and proud young Black women. If the pride we felt in ourselves as individuals defined the pride she felt within herself as an individual, then I think the statement was well-deserved on both ends.

This was the first time that it occurred to me to consider this phrase from the point of view of me being the mother, and this interpretation was different from how I perceived it as a daughter.

Jordan, you are the testament to my greatness. Not because I feel sure enough in parenting you to feel complete pride in it, but because you humble me. You listen with your whole heart, attention undivided. You are gentle without remembering that you have to be, kind to others even if they’ve not shown you kindness, and you love so wholly and unabashedly. If my greatness had to be measured by either who I am or by who you are, I would choose you every time. The whole of you and your siblings is greater than the sum of my parts.

These varied thoughts – as a mother after infertility, as a mother, and as a daughter, swelled through with all the suddenness of crashing waves. I cupped Jordan’s hot, wet cheeks between my hands and looked into his eyes. I wiped the tears from his face and kissed his forehead. The only words I could find to say were, “I love you. Thank you, baby. Thank you for making me better.”

He nodded his head as if he understood, though he couldn’t possibly have comprehended it in as many ways as I meant it. He hugged me again and gave me a quick peck on the cheek, then made off for his room, dragging a stool from the bar behind him. Just before turning the corner, he looked back and said, “I love you too, Mommy. Very, very much.”

This unsure tightrope of feeling our way through our faults and learning from them faster than we can let them adversely affect our children is a delicate balance that seems universal to mothers, or at least the ones I consider good mothers. Anymommy and Lori Lavender Luz, both of whom are mothers that I hold in high esteem, each recently touched on a similar vein. There is reassurance in knowing that I am not alone, tiptoeing my way on feet that are not always steady on this journey that is parenting.

And there is reassurance in the face of my sweet boy, who loves me deeply enough to wash me clean of my maternal doubts with his tears.

62 thoughts on “Balance”

  1. You just summed up mothering in this post. Thank you. 🙂

    (now I need a tissue and feel the need to hug my children–which, up until this post, I was enjoying a rare child-free day)

  2. Oh!
    I am at work tearing up!
    Love this!
    My kid is out with a relative and I was cheering the free time but now can’t wait to see her and hug her and enjoy the honor of being her mother.

  3. Oh my… I’m now a soggy weepy mess. What a beautiful post!

    And when it’s time to start thinking about your contribution to the Creme list this year, you had better be thinking about this post!

    1. Thanks, Mrs. Gamgee. I didn’t even think about this post in terms of the Creme. I’ll keep it at the top of my list. 🙂

  4. “I felt like a charlatan, one who at best could only one day hope to be as good as what he already thought I was.”

    Sing it.

    I love your mother’s saying, and your interpretation of it from either side. And I’m honored to be mentioned in this post because damn, girl. This is a mighty fine one.

    So much love here. And hope and respect and all the good things about being in a parent-child relationship.

  5. Wow. I keep typing and deleting words because they do not do your post justice. I am not yet a mom, except I know in my heart that I AM A MOM, even if the baby is not there yet.

    Of course, you know that they can turn on you and yell “I hate you and I wish I was never borned.” But of course, if they get that angry, it’s also a testament to your greatness as a mother, because you’ve created an environment where the child feels safe enough to express anger, to express herself fully.

    P.S. Don’t tell anyone, but I think I’ve developed a little girl crush on you, just reading one post. You’ve just won a new reader!!

    1. Someone has a girl crush on me? In just ONE post? I am honored that you are crushin’ on me. 🙂 Welcome to The Smartness, Jem!

      Side note: please tell me you watched “Jem,” that cartoon girl-band awesomeness of the ’80’s.

      1. Oh, and – I saw all that stuff about a girl crush and forgot what I mean to say originally.

        Yes – you ARE a mom. I believe that with all my heart, too.

        I am mentally bookmarking your comment about him someday flipping the switches on me and saying that he hates me. I think that’s a normal part of being a kid, too. If it happens, I’ll try to remember to view the situation in the way you’ve painted it and see it as a testament to my greatness that they feel able to express themselves openly. That truly is solid advice that I’m going to keep in my back pocket for when and if I need it.

  6. Wow, you made me cry. What a beautiful post. I often feel as if I’m “doing it wrong”. But, I love my kids more than life, and I know they love me.

  7. Moxie—what a beautiful, beautiful post! Wonderful that your sweet Jordan was able to express himself so freely. The feelings that arose for both of you sound amazing. Hugs!

  8. That was fantastic. I teared up too – half for what you wrote and half for the fact that I’m raising a little sarcastic miss who is as likely to tell me she hates me as she is to tell me she loves me. And she’s only 4. I blame her father – she’s just like him. 🙂

    This is a really wonderful tribute to your kids, your mom, motherhood, and to yourself too.

    1. If it’s any consolation, a, my little Kaelyn is quite the cuddlebug, but she has a spitfire sarcastic slant that I could see one day striking out against me like your sarcastic miss might against you. Except she gets that from me, and not her father. 😉

  9. Omg the tears. I agree already tho he’s only 1.5. And I missed you too.:) Glad you’re back

  10. El Cinco's Gran-Gran

    I started reading this as I was headed out the door yesterday evening. When I read the first paragraph, I knew it was not a post to speed read so I left it until this morning.

    Hot cup of coffee in hand, I sat here with the intent to do my morning ritual of reading the Smart One’s blogs, my emails, and hitting the Stumble Upon button to read several articles of my chosen areas of interest as they popped up with each Stumble.

    My coffee is now cold, no emails have been read, and Stumble is forgotten. I’ve read this over and over again and each time I read it, memories came pouring out from the depths of my brain from an area called “long term memories.”

    Like a traveler in a time machine in which you pull the lever and go speeding through years and decades I remembered the day I was told in all probability I would never have children.

    Then each of my daughters life was shown to me in warp speed. Each pregnancy was hard fought and each of their births was a miracle; especially Chanel’s because we both almost didn’t make it. I chose Chanel to save and not me when the doctor and her Dad walked back into the labor room looking as if they had just had a conference with the Grim Reaper and was told, “you have a choice, mommy or the baby.” But by divine intervention, we both made it. I remembered telling her Dad, save the baby and when he nodded his head he would, I went through the rest of the labor with total calm, at peace.

    I remembered how when Moxie was born, I refused all medications at her birth because I didn’t want anything to in her system and I wanted to be fully awake and aware when we first looked into each other’s eyes. I could have sworn I heard her say, “Hi Mommy Lady!” when they put her on my chest and I held her up to look at her.

    With Dani Girl, it was laughter and jokes and me yelling, “she’s stuck, she’s stuck!” while trying to push out a 10 pd 6 oz miracle. Her twin didn’t make it. I miscarried her twin months before. Do you see the miracle of her birth gentle readers?

    The good times flew through my vision as well as the not so good. They all have meaning, they all helped shape and mold us. At times, this morning I’ve had to stop because of blurred vision caused by tears as I remembered.

    I’ve accomplished a lot in my lifetime, against all odds at times. With each accomplishment, no matter how great, they NEVER compare to my lifetime as a mother. I’m blessed to have lived long enough to see that my greatness goes on within my daughters.

    They truly are the testament of my greatness!

    I know this is a long post but in the words of Steely Dan’s Deacon Blues “I cried when I wrote this song, sue me if I play to long.”

    Now, would somebody please hand me the tissue box that’s being passed around?

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  12. JoJo always knows how to bring on the tears and gentle, calming love.

    No mother or parent is perfect, nor do our children expect us to be, they just want to be loved and you do that wonderfully.

  13. This is an amazing post. I feel these things too, but have never been able to put into words exactly THIS. Beautifully said.

  14. Your post makes me want to be a better mother. This has to be the best post I have read. ever. Thanks for sharing. I feel this post.Not understand but feel, if that makes any sense 🙂

    1. Yes, that makes absolute perfect sense. My favorite posts are ones that I *feel,* and not just read. Thanks so much for your kind words.

  15. i sit down to catch up with my reader, and you’ve got me all verkelmpt already! i’m blaming you when i get nothing done today, just so you know.

    you sure must be doing something right over there.

  16. I too have tears in my eyes. As I read this, I thought of my mom and all that she has done for me and my siblings. I also thought of what I hope to be for my kid(s) someday. Thank you. This is very beautifully written.

  17. Wow! As so many others have said Moxie, just beautiful. As always, I appreciate your candidness and honesty. Lately I have been struggling with how I often feel like I could be such a “better” mom than I am. It helps to be reminded that “good enough” is enough so much of the time. I realize I don’t have to be perfect and that at least for now, as you said, my children will love me unconditionally. I really appreciate your perspective on balance here. As a parent I understand so much more now where my parents were coming from when I was younger and I hope and pray that my children will gain that perspective someday too. xoxo

    1. Parenting is such a reciprocal role, isn’t it? You can’t help but think of your parents from the point of view of being a parent (vs. as a child would view a parent). I hope that I continue to be “all that” to them, and worry almost incessantly that I’m letting them down somehow. Hugs to you, Kathy.

  18. I didn’t think I could cry more than I have today but turns out, I could. Thank you for sharing this story with us. My children have shown me what unconditional love is better than I ever could. I never knew what that was til they came into my life and loved me.

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  20. Here from the Creme. I am in tears! I was in tears as soon as I read his response. Your thoughts – they mirror mine to a degree, and it’s good to see I am not alone in my worries about bringing up my son. He’s still very small (9 months), but I still worry already!

    I am so happy for you that your child loves you as he does. It’s a fantastic thing to see! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  21. Hi! Stopping over from Creme de la Creme.

    What a beautiful post! I think I am giong to need a lot of kleenex… lol I can only hope that my baby girls (twins- 3 months) love me as much as your kiddos do!

  22. Thank you so much for putting this post on the Creme de la Creme. I can’t think of words to say how beautiful and moving it is.

  23. And I am glad I read this post. And no doubt, it made to CDLC.

    Your mum sounds like a fantastic person, and you are doing such a fine job yourself.


  24. Absolutely beautiful! You have perfectly captured my hopes and thoughts in parenting my little guy after IF.

    1. Thank you – parenting after IF brings with its own special set of thoughts and feelings. It’s always nice to know that I’m not alone in thinking the way that I do.

  25. This reminded me of a movie moment…but it makes it even better from “real life”. What an absolutely touching moment…hoping I get one of those myself someday. Sending hugs…here from CDLC.

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  27. Gorgeous. Oh reading this I realize how much beauty I’ve missed around the blogosphere in the last year, but sometimes you’re barely treading water and something’s gotta give. xoxo.

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