The Mountain Times

°F Wed, April 16, 2014

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Mommy, Mom, Mother – A universal theme

I have never watched The Family Guy (though for all you McFarlane fans I have seen Ted three times), but I have seen the clip of Stewie trying to get Lois' attention. "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mum, mum, mum, mother, mother, mother," the little guy repeats over and over. Any woman who is a mother can relate to that scene. It makes me laugh out loud every time, though when it happened for real many years ago I failed to see the humor.

Today, I watch my grandson perform the same feat. Whether it is calling out "Mommy" on the other side of the bathroom door while my daughter tries to take a shower, or if it is a rapid succession of "Grandma's" as he tries to show me something, the theme is universal. When a child wants your attention they are unrelenting. Their energy seems to explode while yours gets zapped. They don't give up until they break you down.  And when you finally drop whatever you are doing, look them in the eye, and say "What?!" they smile and with all sense of urgency mysteriously vanished, they reply, "Hi."

Being a mom is without a doubt the highlight of my career - and my life. I was one of those girls who always knew I would have children. There were no doubts in my mind. I know exactly when I conceived each of my daughters and I remember the details of their births - 24 hours of labor with Vicki and natural childbirth with Kelly. As much as I love them both and have no regrets, I certainly have no desire to ever go through that again!

Though all moms have their own personality and ways of raising their brood, there are some commonalities in the sisterhood of motherhood. We celebrate the same triumphs and lament the same heartaches. We share the universal themes, some of which include the following:

Every mother lives for the firsts and when they happen, she shares the story with the world - or at least anyone who will listen.

Baby's firsts are rites of passage for both the child and the mom. For mom, each first is a verification of a job well done. That first smile means our baby is happy. The first tooth, the first step and the first word are milestones on the growth chart. We surmise that we must be providing the proper nutrition and nurturing. The first hug and "I love you" confirms we are raising a loving, caring little human being. It doesn't get better than that.

As our children become adults, there remains a succession of firsts. There are dates, driving, moving away from home, moving back home, heartbreaks, weddings and the most awaited of all firsts - the grandchild. First dates and driving both fall under the "scary" category. Our first inclination is to protect them, but we have to have the talk with ourselves about allowing them their independence. The first move away from home can bring on the empty-nest syndrome. But have no fear, they will be back - mark my words.

Some firsts are monumental at the moment they occur, but that memory can fade over time as it is layered over with other firsts. For this reason, we choose to document these moments for posterity. In my day, these events were recorded into a baby book. Accompanying the handwritten account would be a baby tooth, a lock of hair or a Polaroid picture. There are reels of Super 8 film sitting in my ex's attic capturing special moments of our little ones. Each year I vow to get them transferred onto DVDs. Today's moms preserve the moment within FaceBook and Twitter accounts along with pictures in their iPhone camera roll and iPhoto libraries. Some even set up dedicated blogs.

No matter how cloudy the memory becomes as we get older, the memory of some firsts never lose their clarity no matter how many years fly by. How many mothers can still perfectly recount every detail of the first time their child threw up? I am not referring to a bit of baby spit that was whisked away with a burp cloth. I'm talking about the first time junior was really ill, snuggled in mom and dad's bed so he could be comforted through his malaise.

Without warning, he gets a scary look on his face and in a split second you know what is about to happen. It is at that same moment you realize the child has not yet developed the instinct to run to the bathroom while holding back the bile. Nope, all they know is something needs to get out and out it comes. How many of us have that vivid memory of stripping the sheets and blankets at 2 a.m. and running with them to the laundry room, holding our breath and fighting our own gag reflex.

As a mom, there is nothing worse than seeing your child sick. I remember nights sitting on the floor in a bathroom full of steam trying to deal with croup. There were fevers and ear infections and a bout of chicken pox. In the times your child takes ill, the rest of the world gets put on hold. A mom will sit with her child for hours on end, waiting for the fever to break or simply watching them sleep, so they won't be alone when they wake up.

Instincts come natural to a mom and when one kicks in, there is no stopping it. I vividly recall sitting at my desk at the Summit Lodge and getting a call from my daughter who was living in Northern Virginia. Having been diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, hospital visits were not uncommon. But for some reason I knew this time was different. Without thinking, I packed a bag and got in my car. When I got to the bottom of the Access Road, I had to decide to turn right or left. I still wasn't sure if I was going to an airport or heading to Interstate 95.

My instinct told me to turn right and two hours later I was at the Manchester, NH airport. I went from counter to counter explaining that I needed to get to Washington, DC. To this day I am loyal to Southwest Airlines for their reaction. They offered me a discounted fare with an open return. When I arrived to the hospital, Vicki had not only been admitted but was just scheduled for surgery. I spent the next five nights sleeping in a chair next to her hospital bed.

They often come about unexpectedly, but they leave an indelible imprint. School awards, graduations, first jobs and any number of personal accomplishments make a mother's heart swell. But my proudest moments with both my girls have always been seeing their acts of kindness to others.

I watched them serve food in soup kitchens and bring presents to children in shelters. They always embraced the fact that they had a comfortable life and the means to bring happiness to those less fortunate.

These happen over a period of time and are bittersweet. It's the time when you look at your toddler and realize they are no longer a baby. They have developed a personality all their own, though you recognize traits from both yourself and their dad.  And then you turn around and they have turned into a teenager. Their physical traits change dramatically, but not as much as their emotional traits. We cringe as they test the boundaries and we hope that we have taught them well enough to make smart decisions.

But the most heartwarming transition is when you realize they have become your friend as well as your child. We recently celebrated my daughter's 32nd birthday. Some high school friends joined us, and I listened as they relayed their stories of mischief, of which I was unaware. I tried to explain that I could still ground them, but they weren't buying it. It was a happy celebration with lots of laughs and love. My little girls had grown into my best friends, my confidantes, my heroines and my role models.

Celebrate this Sunday with your mom. Do something special. Ask her what she really wants for a gift (I told my girls two months ago: Chi flat iron). Spend time with her. Reminisce. Tell her all the things you learned from her that made you the person you are today. Thank her. Hug her. Tell her you love her. And when the moment is just right, just start repeating, "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mum, mum, mum…." She'll get it.