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A Beautifully Terrible Motherhood Truth

Last night I had a moment. It was a moment that I think most moms (and dads) of growing kids could probably relate to. I had come home from work and Holland was excited to see me. She wanted to tell me about her day and to ask me about mine. I sat at the kitchen table, watching her effortlessly glide across the floor towards me, dancing and twirling as she came, and it hit me…

She isn’t a baby anymore. 

In that moment I was filled with both immense pride for the human being she is growing into but also, deep sadness that as the years slip by, I lose tiny pieces of her “babyness” that shall never return.

I paused and told her just how grown she looked and she just smiled widely. She, of course, only understands that growing into a BIG girl is a good thing. And it is…

This morning, as I drove into the office, a deep truth of motherhood that I’d never before understood hit me.

One day, if Holland chooses a life that includes children, she will understand those bittersweet moments I’ve experienced because she too will have them. More than that, she will understand the depth of a mother’s love. She will understand the feeling of desperately wanting a child to sleep so you can just have a moment of silence and peace, only then to feel an intense (and irrational) desire to wake up that same child so you can hug them and be assured of their presence after running across a picture of them or, sometimes as it happens in the world we live in, reading or thinking about a sad story like a recent school shooting. She too will feel this intense, this amazing, this difficult, this relentless love for her child or children. But… she will never feel that for me.

Oh, she will love me. (At least, I hope she will). A child’s love for a parent is a special bond in and of itself of course. It can also be deep and difficult and I personally believe it expands to new horizons once that child becomes a parent itself. It becomes more understanding of their parent — of their hard choices and their sacrifices. But… it isn’t the same. It is quite different than the love that a parent feels for their own child.

So becoming a mom is this amazingly terrible double-edged sword. Because, by doing so, in a sense — you sign up for a love that will never quite be requited. You make this silent pact within yourself to give a piece of your soul up — knowing deep down that the soul you are giving it to will never be able to give you the same piece of their own soul. That piece is, of course, reserved for their own future children. As it should be…

When this realization struck me, I quite literally lost my breath for a second thinking about the beautifully terrible nature of this cycle. It has such loss and sadness, but also, this prevailing hope that coaxes us into continuing it. It is as if the generations of humanity are built upon this deep and willing sacrifice that parents make that requires them to pour out a certain type of love that will never be returned to them.

When I arrived at my office, I found myself having to wipe away a few silent tears.
Silent tears marking the realization I had just made.
Tears for the sadness of knowing that my daughter won’t love me, ever, in the same way I love her.
Tears for the intense joy of knowing that one day, my daughter will feel this love for her own kids.

Tears for the love my own mother poured into me that I’ll never be able to give back to her in the way she deserves.

Tears for all the parents who have or who are participating in this beautifully terrible cycle of love and self-sacrifice that is the backbone of all humanity.

As I gathered my things and found my composure, I prayed a silent but thankful prayer.
Thankful for the love I received. For the love I give. And for the legacy of love that we all pass along through our beautiful children.

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