When I was growing up, I studied piano. Whenever I got in trouble, I’d go to the piano and play this very sad song, Rock Me To Sleep, from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook. It was my go-to song to make my mother feel misty and guilty she fussed at me for making hot chocolate in her Mr. Coffee. Again.
It goes like this:
Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!
I can’t play it now. Being a mother now, the song, which Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote made even grown men tear up, makes me too sad. Lately, it makes me wonder what happened to society so that Doing Without Mama—no, Banishing Mama– is so simple and practical that it’s easy as taking her to court, “proving” her unfitness to do what she is born to do, and convincing a judge and jury that the children and the larger family will be far better off with her out of the way.
So after a solid 45 minutes of rocking my 4-year-old little girl in my arms last night and singing Rock A Bye Baby over and over at her insistence, I wondered if a dad would be patient enough to do this. Probably not. But it’s what she needed, this big 4-year-old girl. The blissful expression on her face (besides her adamant pleas, “Again!”) told me so.
So today, I’m writing about what a mom does. First, I will state for the record that my husband can out-delight me with his games and antics with the children, and he can out cook me too. I never worry for a second when I leave the house for even an extended while because he’s got it all under control. He has an eagle eye from swim instruction days, and he’s as good with children as anyone I’ve ever seen.
But here is what a Mom does:
- Moms have an edge on patience. We teach our kids to count as we painstakingly cut up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until we’ve ended up with 16 pieces. We play Toddler Radio in the car when we’re DYING to listen to The Shins or Sheryl Crow or Metallica or whatever we prefer, because we’re never in the car alone.
- We take children to library story time, we take little boys to the ballet and expect them to appreciate it, and we take little ones to the museum when they have no clue what they’re looking at. We take books everywhere, so that even in a pediatric waiting room, the kids would rather read the favorites we brought rather than handle the dog-eared commercial books on hand or even watch the TV.
- We nag older kids to wrap up or at least wear sleeves, for Lord’s sake. IT’S 45 DEGREES OUT and it won’t get any warmer until noon! We chase them down at the bus stop with a forgotten lunch. We’ve been known to drive to the school with forgotten lunches we sheepishly deposit at the front desk (so we won’t embarrass the fool out of them by appearing at their homeroom door). Lunch-stalkers? Yeah, probably. We just don’t want them to be hungry, is all.
- We plunk errant school kids down at the computer to do math drills until they’ve got it mastered. Our husbands are all, “Let him flunk the test and get really scared when he faces summer school.” Dads know the male mind. But we’re over here like, “Let’s not resort to scare tactics that would work extraordinarily well. He really needs to know his math, and to feel some mastery of it.” Dad shrugs and walks away while our kid tries to sneak off to game with his friends as we scour the Internet for math drill sites.
- We devise clever ways to trick our teens into spilling their guts. Maybe we’ll play a few lives of that too-violent video game Dad got them and while we’re having fun and they’re focused in the way males tend to be when they have something on their mind, they tell us.
- Moms tell stories. Often we tell stories about how we grew up and what we did. Yesterday when my little girl pulled on the mini-shopping cart as we were rolling around the frozen foods section, it toppled over and so did she. It didn’t hit her, but she remained in a frozen ball of mortification for several minutes. When she finally let me pick her up, her face was as red as I’ve ever seen it and her eyes brimmed over with tears. I held her a moment and then said, “Susu, you know what Mommy did when she was a little girl? She drove one of those big huge shopping carts into a freestanding aisle of wine and crashed the whole thing to pieces.” She laughed and we went over to the bakery to get a cookie.
These things are probably universal to most Moms. We are eerily alike. We nurture. We think, we ponder, and we empathize. We over-empathize. We over-react. We kiss it and make it better. We make scary things funny. We worry about silly lullaby lyrics when we suddenly realize we’re singing about a baby that falls out of a tree IN HIS CRADLE. What happened to the baby? Who the hell put him up there and where did this horror story of a lullaby come from? (If you’re like me, you immediately go look it up because the origins of nursery rhymes and lullabies are fascinating. OK, this makes me a dork.)
We Moms are walking, living, breathing hearts. Our hearts leave with our children every day, and the more children we have, the more pieces there are to go around. We make utter fools out of ourselves for our children and don’t give a rip. We give birth in hospital rooms with strangers roaming about, and only care about one thing: That baby and its health. We don’t stop being worried about that baby and its health for the rest of our days.
In reviewing this, I realize we seem almost as creepy and obsessed as that mom in the Robert Munsch book Love You Forever, who rides by her grown son’s house at night with a ladder strapped to the car roof (when he might well have lady company?! Hello?).
But it’s all about a mother’s essence to Make Things OK. Our lives are spent Making Things OK and Worrying If They’re Not. More than that, We Worry That They Might Not Be OK. We want to reassure our children that no matter what they do, and no matter how big they get and we can’t pick them up anymore, they’ll have the memory of their mother’s arms, where they will always be safe and loved.
These family courts and sadistic fathers’ groups and lawyers not only strive to deprive the mothers of raising their children, but deprive their children of the lifetime memories of what their mothers did for them and how much they loved them. Do they not remember being rocked to sleep?