I’ve never been stronger than I am as a mother.
The days my children were born, in the throes of pain so horrible I have a new understanding of the word “despair”, I found strength, like all mothers do, to separate my children from myself.
And I allow them to separate from me more each day. They toddle away from me like penguins, like little frankensteins, like they have everywhere in the world to go, even if it’s just this expanse of living room. They smile and glow as they lurch away and as they tumble back again. They leave on the school bus, they leave into thoughts and nightmares and opinions and sweet dreams that are all their own. I allow them these freedoms, and this is a gut-wrenching strength.
I am strong enough, as all mothers are, that I’d not only wrench a car off their limbs but I’d hurl it across a wall of flames. I’d rail against anything that hurt them; I’d scream into the wind for their causes; I’d swallow any of the ocean of pain that soaks this world before it could lap at their little toes.
I’m strong enough to wake up again to the mundanity of this house and these little bodies that depend on my hands spreading peanut butter on bread, my throat humming soothing melodies, my eyes finding theirs in the rearview mirror so they can show me that thrilling, rumbling excavator again. I’m strong enough to choose to live out the same day, in similar versions, for the years they are this small. I’m strong enough to choose a fuzzy neverending loop of that day again and again, all the while knowing that there will come another day when I’ll look back on this one and realize, as all mothers will, that this too-long day was fleeting and impossible to savor like all mothers are constantly admonished to.
I’m strong enough to send my children, their sinews and smiles literally made of me, into this world and pray for the best.
But, notably, I’ve also stopped listening to music since my children were born, almost entirely. When I do, I’m usually moved to tears in the first few bars. I think the yearning choruses sneak past my motherly armor into the truer part of me.
I have never been more fragile than I am as a mother.
Every breath I take is somehow weighted by what is battering against or shoring up four other little lives. Music reminds me that while strong, I’m not at all invincible. The happenings in my children’s lives could fell me at any moment, so the music does instead.
I spend my days hoping fervently for my children, against all odds.
All mothers do this, which is our impossible strength.