Years before I had my daughter I questioned if I could really ever be a good mom. I had an amazing example to follow in my life and I just didn’t know if I could be on par with that. As a young adult I saw wonderful examples of motherhood surrounding me and it was intimidating. I really figured I’d mess it up so it was better not to play in that game. Admittedly, there was a selfish angle to putting off the thought of motherhood, but ultimately it really came down to the question of whether or not I could be good enough. I loved kids. People would tell me I would make a good mom. Yet I doubted.
In 2002 I learned I was going to be put to the test; and in 2003 the final exam began. It’s an exam I believe you take in parts and as I understand it, you never really complete it. I’ve gotten through the initial phase, I believe. My child is still alive, has a relatively good self image and doesn’t appear to have any permanent damage that I can see- at least thus far.
Today I experienced an impromptu “pop” quiz and I learned I have developed some “Mommitude” over time. There’s still room for improvement, but the oral exam of this day went pretty well. I have a certain level of pride about that, but mostly I am humbled (as I should be). I am humbled that God put a life into my world that I am to foster along, provide and care for, guide through tough times, celebrate with, and at some point let loose on the world hopefully making it a better place to be.
I’m getting way ahead of myself though.
For months my 10 year old daughter was focused on getting her ears pierced. I thought she was too young to be responsible, but after lots of discussion, my husband’s agreement, and her persuasiveness, I decided it would be o.k. to do. I timed it all so that her ears would get well-adjusted to the foreign objects punctured into each lobe in time for us to give her new earrings for Christmas.
As we ventured off to the mall to get the procedure done there was a sense of anxiousness in the air. It seemed fairly normal. As we hustled down the corridor to get to the piercing shop butterflies in my daughter’s stomach were noted. Reasonable to me. We go through the experience of selecting the perfect pair of starter earrings, having her ears swabbed and marked, and getting the little bear to hold onto for security (not sure if that’s for the child or the parent, but in our case the child held it).
The first earring was injected. We got through it. The second earring was inserted and my daughter had an odd look on her face. Within seconds her eyes rolled back in her head and she passed out. Thankfully she was sitting and I caught her right away. That part of the test was awful. My fear level was at the max, but I got into action and took the typical steps to try and bring consciousness back. All the while I was reciting what I had learned in first-aid: if the face is red raise the head-if the face is pale raise the tail. By the time I got to figuring the rhyme out, my daughter was coming to. I clearly recall her expression and her asking why are you saying my name like that- what happened?
It was a great story to share and my daughter seemed to enjoy the attention this little incident brought. She did a great job caring for her ears and avoided those nasty infections that I experienced when I was a kid (where was hand sanitizer then?). It didn’t take long before talk of wearing new earrings. I explained we had to wait. We had to be patient. Christmas was coming etc. etc. And indeed, Christmas came and my daughter was generously treated to new earrings by several family members.
Enthusiastically we tried a brand new set. The nerves mounted again. I advised about breathing this time…like remember to do it. I pulled out the original earrings. The response was, Mom I’m woozy. Here we go again I thought. However, I talked her through it and we were able to get two new earrings inserted. Perhaps she was being a little dramatic when she asked to have help sitting down and for some water. However, she did seem a little pale. That moment passed and the new earrings looked great. The test was going pretty well now.
Time to change the earrings again. She wanted help. We took out the current studs. She was getting a little uptight. We decided to wait a day. We tried again. Out with the alcohol, washing our hands and picking the pair to wear. Drama sets in. Mom, I feel like I did when I got my ears pierced. I need to sit down. Can you get me a glass of water? I don’t feel good. O.k. I’m ready. No, wait, wait. O.k. I’m ready. Breathe. In through the nose out through the mouth. O.k. ready? Ready. No wait! O.k. try one, but if I say stop…stop.
I got the earring to the hole and my daughter’s pupils started changing. I stopped. Are you o.k.? Let’s try this sitting down. Let’s try this standing up. Let’s try this with you sitting on the counter. You want to sit on the floor? O.k. Let me get you more water. I ultimately say, I’m not sure you can handle this. She says, you are right, Mom. I don’t think I can handle this either. Her response made me laugh a little.
Let’s try again. If I say stop…I know, I know, if you say stop I will stop. O.k. Ouch, ouch, ouch, stop. ( I barely got the earring tip near the hole). Mom, I think we need to try this tomorrow. O.k. it’s not a problem. We’ll try it when you are ready. Will my holes close? I don’t think they close that quickly, but if we wait too long that could be an issue.
Tears well in eyes. I ask what’s going on. She doesn’t want the holes to close up, but she can’t stomach having earrings put in. She is frustrated. She is failing (in her mind). This is when, like the exposing of a super-power, I develop my “Mommitude”. We discuss what’s going on and how she’s feeling. I throw out a few adjectives and she begins to cry real tears. I know she is feeling she has let herself down and maybe me. I reassure that whether or not a person has earrings doesn’t make the person any better or worse. I love her whether she decorates herself or not. It’s not a big deal if she chooses not to wear earrings. She tried and whatever she wants at this point is fine. Now I’m stroking her hair, talking softly and she’s leaning into me. It’s a comfortable position I remember when she fell and bumped herself as a toddler. Though now, the stakes are getting higher.
She gets even more emotional when she says people got her all these earrings for Christmas and she can’t wear them. She is concerned about how they would feel. This might have been the first time I saw my little girl express a mature and authentic concern for how someone else feels. Now I’m choked up. I explained again she was loved and no one would care how long it took her to wear the earrings they gave her or if she ever wore them. Gifts are given from the heart. I was being the gift of motherhood at that very moment.
As for the heart, genuine feelings were exuding from hers. I could feel her sadness in my heart as well. I pulled her closer and we shared some memories about how I used to do that when she was much smaller. She grabbed me tighter. More conversation about what’s important and what’s not in life. As I held her close I tried to say the right things at the appropriate times and let there be silence when that was needed as well. I felt my Mommitude expand. After a little time things were getting back to normal and the earring incident was long gone.
These pop quizzes are challenging. What’s the right thing to say? Will I screw it up? I know this is the first of many experiences where she will need to hold me tight, where I will stroke her hair and talk about feelings, where I’ll reinforce she is special no matter what the circumstance. I’m honored that I am the person taking part in these tests. As I tilted my head to rest on top of hers I thanked God for the opportunity to be a mom- to be her mom. I expressed my gratitude for being put to the test and saying things I didn’t regret. You never know what might come out of my mouth the next time. For now, I’ll take this experience as a true gift and I’ll keep sharpening up my Mommitude for the tests to come. I have a feeling there will be many more “pop” quizzes ahead.