My favourite video of all time opens with a baby lying on a sofa. He’s about three months old, and dressed in a pale green onesie. A female voice narrates the proceedings.
Baby emits faint gurgling noise.
“Look at him! Did you hear that? He’s talking!”
“He’s kicking. Do you see that?”
“Ooooh, he just waved at us! Did you see that? His little hand?”
Baby returns to lying there and examining the ceiling.
“Isn’t he amazing?”
The video is 20 minutes long, and I’ve just described, more or less, everything that happens in it.
Admittedly, it will never be a hit on YouTube, but I have my reasons for loving it. The baby? My first-born, Angus. The cameraman? My husband, proud new papa. The narrator? Me, besotted new mama. It was around this time that I began to grasp how much my own parents loved me.
The evidence had always been there — expressed in their willingness to drop everything, to listen to anything, to worry about me, and to attempt to protect me, whether I wanted them to or not. But the older I’d gotten, the less I appreciated their concern or desired their protection.
Then there I was — 26 and suddenly on the other side of the parenting equation. I literally couldn’t take my eyes off of this tiny and marvellous human being I’d brought into the world. I remember saying to my husband: “Oh my God, do you think this is how our parents feel about us?” It was a revelation that inspired both empathy and terror. Because if my parents felt this way about me, my baby might someday feel toward me the way I felt toward my parents. He might not need me anymore! How could I bear it?
Twelve years and three more kids later, I’ve learned that there isn’t a bottom to my mothering love (or if there is, I haven’t hit it yet). I’m not talking about cozy, fuzzy, soft-focus love. I’m talking about mama-bear-sized, sometimes-heart-aching, occasionally terrifying, always hopeful, all-embracing love. How could I not bear it? Every day, I willingly drop everything, listen to anything, worry (quietly), and shout last-minute reminders when my children head out into the world without me: “Walk carefully! Look out for cars! Be good! Stay safe! I’ll be here!”
“Yeah, Mom. We know.”
“I love you!”
This is love that radiates onto my children all that I believe them to be capable of. And that’s love that lets go, gradually, as they grow.
Which is why Mother’s Day has always seemed to me a strangely redundant holiday. Isn’t every day Mother’s Day? Every day I get to pour myself out, in doses small and large, as needed. Every day I receive in return a multitude of thanks. Not in the form of cards or flowers or misshapen clay pencil holders, but in the form of many small accomplishments; the equivalent of Angus’s recorded and much-praised gurgles and twitches. I might have to do some sifting to locate the gifts, but they’re there.
Annabella running until red-faced at soccer practice. Flora sitting on the kitchen floor reading a chapter book. Calvin gently petting the dogs. Every day I’m witness to wondrous feats.
Well, I think they’re wondrous. Just call me Mom.
Carrie Snyder’s most recent novel, The Juliet Stories, came out in 2012.