I’d barely begun my story,“While we were in Tibet your dad and I saw…” when my daughter interrupted with,“Where was I?” My reply, “You weren’t born yet,” was the only clue she needed. Time to move on to a new subject. Another story about mom? Boring.
2008 Beth and Joel in Tibet
I understand children are the epitome of self-centeredness. A world they’re not in? No such thing. Private conversation with my husband? A question to another adult? She assumes I must be talking about her. From my daughter’s perspective, there’s no me without her.
Most of us know very little about who our moms and dads really are. Their lives before parenthood happened in another time, a different dimension. It’s almost impossible to imagine your mom was once a 6-year-old let alone a young woman with an independent life, goals, dreams, desires. How ironic considering many people become parents, in part, so they can “carry on” their lineage and be remembered. Yet the life our children remember is the life lived after they were born. We might look at high school photos of our parents with curiosity, but we are clueless about the entire story.
When my mother was almost 16, she was riding on the handle bars of a boy’s bike. She fell and broke her jaw. Doctors wired it together but my mother missed most of her friends’ ‘Sweet 16’ parties. This was a pivotal moment in my mom’s life. She’s told me this story numerous times. I know she felt deeply hurt and alone. I can tell this was one of the significant memories in her life. I’m pretty sure this is why she never learned to ride a bike. But that’s really all I know. Did her friends check in on her during her recovery? Did she like the boy whose bike she was riding on? How did he feel about what happened? Did he visit her? If they were dating, did they continue to date after the accident? These are details I would remember if it were my story. But it’s not. It’s my mom’s.
What my daughter doesn’t fully comprehend is I did have a life before motherhood. In fact because I became a mom later in life than most, I spent more Mother’s Days as just Beth, not Mama. During those years, the experiences I had formed who I became and influenced the choices I made, including becoming a mom.
Beth, single, in 2002
Had I not spent a semester overseas during my junior year at college, I might not have fallen in love with international travel and international travel is one of the reasons I really wanted to adopt from another country. If I had married earlier in my life, I probably would have had a biological child. If our insurance hadn’t pulled out at the last minute, I might have given birth using a donor egg. Had our first trip to Armenia had turned out differently, I’d be the mother of a son not a daughter. If we’d decided to back out after another adoption fell through, I would not be a mom at all.
All these experiences, the minutiae, the twists and turns, the emotions and subtext. All these little details my daughter will never fully know or understand, make my story, pave the path that brought me to motherhood, the path that made me—for better and worse—the person I am today, the mother I am now.
A family of three in 2016
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms…no matter how you got there!
It’s all about the journey,