You haven't heard from me for a while. Almost a year. So much has happened over the last 10 months, but the biggest shift has been the loss of my mother.
We lost mom on October 12th. She had been battling health issues for some time, but the loss was still sudden. Until the day or two before she passed, most of us thought she would rebound with time and treatment. I'm still fresh in my grief, and now, four months into "life after", I am starting to see that the most difficult part of losing her is learning to mother (v.) without a mother (n.).
When people tell you that motherhood is hard they aren't kidding. It is challenging, important, stressful, joyous, and often monotonous (pack lunch, wipe nose, wipe bottom, brush teeth, tie shoes, find the lost toy, lather, rinse, repeat...). It is also doubt-inducing. Even the most confident woman will doubt herself once becoming a mother. Am I feeding him enough? Too much? Am I too strict? Too lenient? Does he feel secure/loved? Am I teaching him the right values? SO. MUCH. No wonder we're exhausted. But in all of that headspace, I had my mom as my sounding board. My advice-giver (even when I didn't take it). Who can understand and empathize with the highs and lows of motherhood like YOUR MOTHER?! Plus, who else on God's green Earth, other than a paid licensed therapist, would be willing to listen to it all?
A few days after she passed, I had loaded up the family car to drive me and my son back home to stay with my dad and make preparations for the memorial service. It's a 5-hour drive with lots of open West Texas country roads so I let my mind wander, and it occurred to me that my son is the same age that my younger brother was when our grandfather passed away. I immediately thought, "I should ask Mom how she talked to Matt about death at a young age." Let that sink in. My first thought/instinct/urge was to ask my deceased mother how to teach my son about death.
Life has been full of these moments over the last few months. Reaching for the cell phone to tell her about a new milestone with Arlo (She swore vehemently that he was "advanced" from 3 days old and never stopped, just ask the ladies in her Sunday School class). Craving her support and delight when I was offered a fantastic new job. Wanting to lay out all the Pre-K options and get her feedback. It doesn't stop, I don't think it ever will.
My mom also called me on my bullshit. She would have watched me dive headfirst into work after her death and told me to slow down. She would have seen through the smiles and "I've got my shit together" facade and told me that I needed to process things instead of avoiding my feelings. She would have told me to get over myself with my self-prescribed guilt trip and focus on now. She would tell me to wash my face every night, put on lotion to moisturize, and dab some Carmex on my lips because I needed to take care of myself.
Tonight as I was tucking Arlo into bed and reading his bedtime story, I looked down and surveyed my boy. Tousled hair, long dark eyelashes, arm clutched protectively around his prized stuffed hippopotamus, and was so filled with love and pride for this child. It hit me hard knowing that my mom adored me in the same ways. That even at almost 38 years old she still looked at me with that same awe and pride. That may be the toughest loss of all because no matter how old we are, deep down we still want the love and approval of our mommas.