When they show the video to prepare you for childbirth — the one that makes you exclaim in horror, “I have to do THAT?” — they don’t begin to explain the pain of being a mother.
No, not the pain of red punch in the gray carpet or whiney teen-agers or soggy bath towels molding on the wood floor.
What they don’t talk about is the anxiety of taking your 7-year-old to the emergency room with a broken arm.
Or the heartache of watching as young love breaks your child’s heart.
Or the ordeal of worst-case scenarios that will invade your overactive imagination when your youngster starts driving and leaves you behind — literally and figuratively.
When they teach you about breathing during contractions, they don’t warn you about the nervous tremors you’ll suffer when your son takes the pitching mound and you wish he’d just get out of there as soon as possible so you can calm down.
They don’t address how to suppress your overprotectiveness when you send your daughter off to a weeklong resident camp for the first time.
They don’t prepare you to trek to the new college, help unpack unobtrusively and leave the dorm room “before” you burst into tears.
When they cheerfully wheel you and your tiny, fragile bundle(s) with the remarkable lungs to the hospital exit to send you home, they don’t explain that within a few hours you’ll feel totally inept at your new job. Or that you’ll struggle constantly with that sense of inadequacy.
They don’t teach you how to balance a baby in each arm while answering the phone or to gracefully maneuver a double stroller on the subway.
There’s no cheat sheet for protecting your babies from the world’s evils without talking to them about embarrassing, unpleasant, sometimes ugly things.
They don’t slip you the secret answers you’ll be seeking when you cradle your child as she dies too young, for reasons you’ll never comprehend.
No one offers advice on calming your fears when your child writes home from a war zone thousands of miles away, tired and homesick.
The greeting card, flower and restaurant industries have marketed Mother’s Day to great effect. The long-distance telephone providers lap it up.
It’s a pleasant idea to recognize mothers once a year. By why stop there? Why not value the work of mothering every day — whether it’s done by mothers or fathers — not just as a philosophical matter but as an economic one?
Yes, yes, I know it’s not too often entertaining, in the manner of a Jim Carrey flick or a LeBron James jump shot.
It mostly can’t be done in a glitzy stadium before a nacho-snarfing audience.
Though it’s the ultimate reality, it doesn’t command the disposable income of the 18-to-34 hip-and-living-large crowd over which advertisers salivate.
Whether it plays in the political or pop culture arena or not, you do it anyway because it’s that important.
So you walk your bawling 2-year-old for an hour at 2 a.m., crying yourself because you’re exhausted and she won’t be comforted.
You can love your kids so much that you’ll let them test their wings when you’d rather hold them tight. Sometimes you shut yourself in your room and scream. You learn to bite your tongue when an I-told-you-so tries to erupt.
The idea of Mother’s Day got its start in this country as a way to promote peace and better sanitary conditions.
When President Wilson signed a joint resolution of Congress 90 years ago making it a national holiday, he invited Americans to fly the U.S. flag, not give a hug or mail a card or send roses.
This Mother’s Day, thousands of American mothers may be flying their flags, but they won’t really be at peace. They’re the ones we shouldn’t forget this Sunday.
They’re the mothers who sent their babes to war but got back the legacy that their children served courageously and died so the rest of us don’t have to.
Those whose sons and daughters have returned from war with broken bodies and damaged spirits.
And those who are waiting for a soldier’s hug that cannot come too soon.
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