I warn you- this may ramble.
Today, I took Q and a friend to a local pool to swim. As pre-teens often do, they took off to go have fun almost immediately, so I settled into a chair in the front row where I could watch them and get some sun. Shortly after, a young girl (maybe 20?) arrived with two babies and took the seat next to me. Her children were (I am guessing) about 15 months old and 6 months old. At first, I didn’t pay her much attention, as I was wrapped up in my own world – but soon, she caught my attention. First, she applied sunscreen to each child, covering every open patch of skin – hanging onto one child with one arm and slathering the other child with her other hand. Once both were covered, she took them both to the shallow waters in front of me.
For the next 30 minutes, I watched her playing with her children. The 15 month old was walking, which made things more difficult, as she wanted to go, go GO and explore. The 6 month old, when seated in the water, would often fall over as various waves hit him, and she would have to catch him to bring him back to sitting. This mama never stopped working. She laid on her belly and kicked her feet with the girl, all while keeping one hand on the boy’s belly to protect him from falling. When the girl would dash off, she would lunge for her, without ever taking an eye off her son.
I started thinking about her morning (shoot – her EVERY day). This girl (again, BARELY 20) had every reason to stay at home today. It certainly would have been EASIER. I thought about the days when Q was 15 months old and into EVERYTHING. There is no WAY I could have handled that with a 6 month old on my hip too. AND I HAD HELP! This girl is (if my gut is right) most likely, doing all of this alone.
I know. I know. Some of you are thinking, “Well, she shouldn’t have gotten pregnant, much less so soon after the first one!” I get it. I am certain her life is ten times harder because of her situation with TWO babies, so small. But you know… I can’t do anything but give her FULL respect for the way she was mothering them. She was attentive and selfless and loving on those babies like she was super-wealthy and had a full-time nanny at home, to give her a break when she got back. Maybe she ISN’T in a terrible situation. Maybe I’m stereotyping in the worst way. Maybe the father of her children is involved and loving and present and the four of them are SO happy. Maybe my own extensive experience with young mamas has jaded me into believing that it is ALWAYS difficult and the situations are ALWAYS unhealthy.
I certainly hope I am wrong.
Also at the pool, I saw three of my former students from Rogers there with their babies too. All of them were SO attentive to their sons and daughters. I watched each one of them keep a careful, watchful eye on their children, even as they hugged me and we caught up on their lives. A pool is a dangerous place for children, especially little ones – and every one of my beautiful students was treating it that way.
Some of you know that I have had one of Q’s friends at my house all summer. I don’t mean that he plays here. I mean he has lived here. He has not been home since July 5. On July 9, I finally bought him his own toothbrush. Nobody calls here for him. Nobody checks with me to see how he is, if he needs anything, if he’s okay. Radio silence. For 14 days. The boy is wonderful. He is smart and funny and polite and wonderful. We love having him. And yet, as one day leads into the next, my heart breaks for the attention he ISN’T getting from the people in his circle.
Shortly after Sean and I got married, I remember seeing an episode of The Rosie O’Donnell show one day after work. She was talking about her children and she said, “Motherhood is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
A short year later, I completely understood what she meant. Having my Q put that into FULL perspective.
Being a mama is something that takes 100% effort every second, when done correctly. (Dads too! No disrespect to you guys! I just can’t speak to that feeling, personally, because I am not one!)
As I was leaving the pool today, I stopped at that young mama’s chair. “Hey,” I said. “You’re doing such a great job.” She looked confused, so I said, “I’m sorry. I have been watching you love on them all afternoon and I just needed to tell you – you are such a great mother.” She looked overwhelmed and thanked me, saying, “I’m exhausted.”
“I know.” I said. “We all are. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.”
She thanked me, and ran off to chase down baby girl, who was bee-lining for the pool again.
She will be in my prayers tonight – as will all of you, who are exhausted…but doing it right.