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Mother Love is Hard to Explain

Last night I found myself trying to explain to a 15-year-old girl, who has “issues” with her own mother and doesn’t plan on ever having kids of her own, how I feel about my own kids. I’m not sure how the conversation got to this place. I’m sure she didn’t ask me, “Hey Kathryn, please pour out your heart’s deepest feelings to me about motherhood.” I just wanted to tell her. I started talking and it all came spilling out.

When I’m blogging or even talking about my kids, I often share their funny quirks or the difficulties and challenges that make motherhood a struggle. It’s fun to whine about the hardships and to share never-a-dull-moment anecdotes.

The real sweetness of being a mom sort of gets stuck in my guts sometimes. It comes out at night when I’m watching them sleep or in those moments when I stare at them in wonder and think, “How was I so blessed to have a hand in creating you, in growing you cell by cell and now experience by experience?”

I told my teen friend that the love I have for them is strange and hard to explain in words. For a while they were literally a part of my body like baby “Kip” is right now, inside me, tearing things up and sharing my blood, food and the air I breathe. Then suddenly these people came spilling out and *snip* their body was their own. They still need me in many ways but every minute they get a little more independent, a little more sure that there is a world beyond my reach, a world they will discover and I will never truly understand.

I love watching them grow but there’s a part of me that sneaks into their rooms each night and just wants to smoosh them and cuddle them so tightly that they somehow meld back into me and never go off to school or karate lessons again. And they have no idea how I feel. They won’t until they have kids of their own.

They have a blend of Dan’s face and mine. Because we made them. When they say or do something that one of us would say or do, it just furthers my sense of claim on them. They are mine. Isn’t it obvious? There’s something so primal and possessive about my motherly feelings. They stem from the deepest places and they show themselves in the quiet times, the times I have a chance to breathe and stop doing motherhood and just enjoy feeling and being it.

It’s the day-to-day fights over whether pants and shoes need to be worn in public places, whether we should wipe stray paint on our new school clothes or if throwing rocks at the walls in the living room is a good game that these feelings get buried and my inner nanny/drill sergeant takes over. Those are the fun stories to tell my friends, who sympathize with me and share war stories of their own.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve talked with my mom friends about the other feelings that are brewing, the love feelings that don’t really have a name. Maybe they’re too close, too personal to share casually over a hotdog at the mall. Maybe we don’t know how to talk about them. Maybe we can sense the same feelings in each other and we don’t need to put them into words. It’s enough to know they’re there.

To my teenage friend, all I could really say was, “You’ll get it someday.” What an annoying explanation.

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