“Surprise!” we yelled, as we stood, chilly, at her front door in our pajamas and winter coats.
“Why, thank you!” she gasped. “Come on in!”
We walked softly through the dim living room, carrying a large, three layer chocolate cake with a dusting of sprinkles on top, and brightly colored birthday candles. We sang to her as loudly as we could, belting out the lyrics to a simple song she had heard for eighty two years. She grabbed plates from the cabinet and we sat down to eat large, moist slices of gooey chocolate cake, at 8pm, in our pajamas. “I remember asking you, Gran, when I had my second child, if I would feel different toward him. Do you remember what you told me?” She grinned between large bites of cake and replied, “There is always room in your heart for one more. Your heart grows as your family grows”. As a mother of four sharing with a mother of three that night, I can attest that she was absolutely correct.
Despite the fact that I have only been a mother a little under a decade, there has been a trend among modern mothers to drone on publicly about how “tough being a mom” really is. And if “this whole motherhood thing is really worth it”. I am uncertain on how someone can place value and worth on a child’s life simply based on their level of personal disdain for their current life situation, but it is so common and disheartening it is worth mentioning that being a mother goes so much deeper than whether or not you got enough sleep last night or if they spilled milk on the kitchen floor or if you continue to find crushed Goldfish crackers in the floorboard of your minivan. Once we become mothers, we are lifelong caregivers, mending scrapes on their souls and loving fiercely even in the most unlovable moments. Things like posing crying kids for the perfect photo on a snowy afternoon or a full length selfie in a cute outfit with script about how hard life is with little ones is the very story you are telling their future selves. That their mother not only complained to friends, but to complete strangers on how difficult her life has become now that she has children, and how posed and scripted it is depicted to others.
“Surprise!” we yelled, as we stood, warm and toasty, at her nursing home door in birthday hats and bearing gifts. She gasped and smiled, but no words came out. So we came on in regardless. We sang to her as loudly as we could, belting out the lyrics to a simple song she had heard now for eighty three years. In just a year’s time, she went from a perfectly vibrant and active grandmother, to one who fell victim to a severe stroke that took her freedom hostage and claimed her carefree afternoons. As her children slowly filed in around us, to wish her well and decorate her room and show her how important she is, it occurred to me that she could have very well asked the same question so many years before. If my grandmother, as a young woman, had asked, “is this whole motherhood thing worth it?”, then the four children, seven grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren would not exist. Generations upon generations are directly affected by the choices, decisions, and attitudes of mothers. When we stress over the small things, right out of the gate, we miss the bigger picture of how these little ones that seem to alter our worlds will one day alter others. And they will enjoy a slice of cake with their grandchildren and great grandchildren one day, and gently remind them one simple truth: your heart grows as your family grows. And glancing at our family the other night, praying and laughing and play fighting, all over a plate of lasagna and nestled in wads of thrown wrapping paper, made me realize our hearts just keep growing as this big family of ours just keeps getting bigger. Thank you, Gran, for never giving up on us.