When we’re kids, if we’re very lucky, we love our parents deeply and completely. We stand at the top of the stairs, listening to their voices. We hold their kisses in the palm of our sweaty hands long after we’re supposed to be asleep.
Then we get older. We become independent. We forget a little bit. But we hold that love of our parents like a coin in our pocket.
One day, it happens. We’re holding our own little baby. We reach into that pocket. The one we had almost forgotten. We pull out that coin.
We feel its weight. We look at the worn etching. And we flip it over.
And there, on the other side, is how we love our baby.
We have to learn how it works, but we know. There may be certain things about the coin we want to change, but we know what to do in our hearts and we know in our guts.
And we know that the coin is etched with acid, and the acid is pain. Because just as we grew up and away from our parents, so too is our baby destined to grow away from us.
In fact, the definition of success as a parent is that our kid can live without us.
So we grieve a little every day.
For those funny newborn wrinkles that smooth out so fast.
For the chubby baby hand that strokes our chest while we’re nursing our 6-month-old.
For the awkward gait of the new walker, hands reaching out to us for support.
For the preschooler who can “do it all by myself, mama.”
For the way the huge backpack looks on the kindergartner as she climbs the steps to the bus (also huge, by the way).
We want to stop time, but that’s the worst possible alternative.
We want to devote every ounce of energy to absorb every moment with our babies, but we cannot.
Clothes must be washed.
Dinners must be cooked.
Meetings must be attended.
Toys must be put away.
Bills must be paid.
And they, they are busy, too.
Swings must be swung on.
Dirt must be rearranged.
Stuffed animals must have a parade.
Elaborate costumes must be constructed.
But kids have tender and sentimental hearts.
When you ask the kindergartner to sit in your lap, she will. She will tell you about how “easy” math is, but also how “math could never be boring.” Her voice is so grown-up, but still sweet with minor, adorable mispronunciations.
When you ask the preschooler to give you one of her epic hugs, she clings to you as if you are one—which of course, you are, in a way. She melts into you just as she did when she was a baby while telling you a complicated story about some playground tiff from the day.
Each day, you get your coin out and you feel it.
You marvel at its longevity.
And in the tough moments of motherhood, you remember that you are making your child’s coin.
The coin that will stay in their pocket. The coin they will nearly forget, for a while.
The coin they will pull out, someday, if they become a parent.
On the day they hold their own child for the first time, they will pull out the coin. They will feel its worn surface. They will turn it over.
And then they will understand.