Oh, Mama, that granddaughter of yours. That sweet, strong daughter of mine. Nowadays, she insists on putting on her shoes without my help.
Sometimes, I have to close my eyes and think about something else while she does it.
Sometimes, I have to walk into another room and busy myself with another task.
Sometimes, it is so hard for me to just let her do it herself. We need to get out the door.
There are times when she overcomplicates the process, and I think, sweetie, it could be so much easier if you just let me help. I see her frustration and the way her confidence is shaken when she doesn’t get it straight away.
It’s hard for me, but I let her do it. I’m there for her if she asks for help, to offer an encouraging word, or to acknowledge her perseverance, but at the same time, I have to step back, and let her try to figure it out on her own sometimes.
I’m starting to see now that this is what you’ve been doing for me.
And Mama, I want to thank you.
Ever since she was born, and especially since her little sister was born shortly afterwards, my text messages and calls to you have increased exponentially. “Mama, I need your help.”
It’s the cry from our children that causes us to come running. It’s the cry that makes us want to drop everything and fix our babies’ problems.
But sometimes, being there for our children means just that—being there.
Thank you for being there, Mama.
Thank you for being there when I called you, cradling my slightly feverish newborn and panicking as I looked up the number for the emergency room.
Thank you for telling me that yes, you knew it was scary, and yes, you knew how worried I was, even when you knew that it was most likely the common cold she’d go on to experience many, many more times.
Thank you for being there when I needed to vent about how I wasn’t coping with the sleep deprivation, how I resented every person in existence who got to sleep for more than two hours at a time, how unfair it was, and how I didn’t recognize myself anymore.
You didn’t tell me to try this or that, sleep train, give her an extra bottle, or provide a fix-it-all solution. You listened and you let me cry tears of exasperation because when you have a baby that won’t sleep, the desperate helplessness needs to come out somehow. You knew that, and you were there.
Thank you for being there when the parenting choices I make differ to yours.
Thank you for saying things like, “Hmm...that’s interesting”, or “I hadn’t considered that perspective before,” when I tell you about a new book I’ve read or a school of thought to which I’ve subscribed.
Thank you for respecting me when I manage my children’s behavior differently to how you would have done it.
Thank you for not criticizing, dismissing or telling me I’m doing it wrong. You’re letting me forge my own path as you look on, assuring me of your support regardless of whether or not I admit that your way was the right way, after all.
Thank you for being there at three in the morning, when I have a baby finally asleep in the crook of my arm in a still, silent room, as we speak through text messages so we don’t wake anyone up.
Thank you for making it safe for me to tell you things like, “Today, I’m sick of being needed by everyone,” or, “Today, I wish they’d just grow up already.”
You’re on the other end of the tunnel, probably missing being needed and wondering how the age of littles has passed you by so quickly, but you tell me that you know—you know it’s exhausting, and overwhelming, and just about impossible some days.
When you don’t tell me to cherish every moment, that it’ll all pass so quickly, or that I should be grateful to even have these beautiful children in the first place—even if that’s all true—you allow me to be my whole, imperfect self with you. And I can’t tell you how priceless that is, Mama. I don’t need to tell you because you already know.
You’ve been here, where I am now, deep in the trenches of motherhood. And now, you’re here again, but in a different, almost poetic way—you’re here for me.
So Mama, thank you. Thank you for just being there.
I know it can’t be easy watching your own baby, who has babies of her own, trying to figure out something you mastered a long time ago, four times over. It can’t be easy to give her space, watch her grapple with something, and learn the hard way sometimes.
But I suppose you know, as I am learning now, that a huge part of being there for your child is to assure them of your unwavering support whenever, and however, they need it, while they navigate their own uncharted waters, even if you already have a pretty good map of those waters from when you embarked on a similar voyage seemingly not so long ago.
I guess, Mama, that our experiences of motherhood, although separated by decades, are not so different, after all.
And I thank you for being there for me, Mama, while I navigate mine.