Work has suddenly picked up these two weeks and I haven’t had a chance to write. Then I remembered this post from 2 years ago that was sitting in my drafts folder.
Fred’s eyes widened as his mouth followed. He glanced from the black-and-white photo to me.
“Mommy, you won!”
It was midweek between Christmas and New Year’s, and an essay I had written about my family’s immigration experiences appeared in a series of newspapers in our tri-city area.
“Read it to me,” Fred asked.
I hesitated, knowing that the essay would lose him in both concept and interest. On second thought, though, why not? He had every right to read what Mom had written. And so I started, interrupted a couple of times with “What does ____ mean?” By the time I ended the second paragraph, Max was calling us to the table for brunch.
At the end of the day Max would tell me that, after we had finished brunch and I had gone back to work at my computer, Fred had asked my brother (who was staying with us for the holidays) to finish reading to him the rest of the essay. When he was done, Fred took a poll of the table: “Who thinks Mommy is the best? Raise your hand!”
I was surprised that Fred had shown that much interest in my story, a story he undoubtedly would have rejected with a loud “Boring!” had this come from any other source. My eyes welled up as Max relayed the story to me, a continuation of the unfamilar poke at my heart that I had felt earlier that morning when Fred first asked to be read to.
It’s a position I never saw myself in. I went into motherhood expecting to be the supporter, the coach, the one who says “Good job!” and gives high-fives. I look forward to those heart-bursting moments when my child might kick his first goal, win a spelling bee, or get into college. I hadn’t really expected that, once in a while, the tables might be turned.
My own proudest moment of my mother came just a year ago, when she called to tell me that – despite my advice to the contrary – she was going to apply for that teaching vacancy at her school. She had been a school teacher before she immigrated to the U.S., and since then has been working as a teacher’s assistant in the public schools. To lead a classroom again was a dream that kept eluding her. We had talked about the open position for weeks, but I ultimately discouraged her from applying. Too much stress and pressure at this point, I told her, especially given her health and age. She had turned 70 earlier that year.
But how I fought to keep the tears in as she said to me, “Ceci, I’m going to go for it.” With all that she has gone through as an immigrant and mother, it was that moment that I felt proudest to be her daughter.
Like many mothers, my main expectation is the chance to parent. The only gift I need is the joy in raising my child. I would have completely understood if Fred, at age 6, weren’t interested in hearing the details of my essay. But by the fact that he was, he has given me the most unexpected gift: encouragement to be more than a mother.
Do you have a story of when your children were proud of you? What interests do you like to pursue outside of motherhood/parenthood?