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Motherhood really isn’t about smooth landings

MONDAY, MAY 7, 2007

Imagine we are at a party (let’s make it a cocktail party because I’ve got a new dress and I’d like a chance to wear it even if it’s only in my imagination) and we’re making small talk, chatting the way strangers do.

And imagine that I told you that one day I decided I wanted to be a pilot.

I’d never really thought about being a pilot before, but one day, I just knew that was what I should be.

So I read a few books about flying, and a few more books about airplanes. I watched a couple of videos and began to notice airplanes everywhere I went, paying special attention to the pilots who were flying them.

Lots of people are pilots. How hard could it be?

Then, late one night, I rushed off to the air field, strapped myself into the cockpit, grabbed the stick and took to the air with no practical experience. I counted on instinct to guide me.

If I were to say that to you, you’d think I was, at best, a liar. At worst, maybe a little crazy.

But what if we were at that party and I popped a canapé in my mouth and told you I have a child. One day I decided I was ready to be a mother. I read a few books, watched a few videos and studied babies and mothers wherever I went.

I asked myself, how hard could it be?

Then, late one night I went to the hospital. With no practical experience and very little training, I came home with a child. Counting on instinct to guide me.

What’s crazy about that? Isn’t that the way most of us become parents?

I brought that first child home with me just over 20 years ago.

I’ve still never flown a plane, but now I’ve got four children. And I’m not convinced that trying to fly without a lesson wouldn’t have been the easier route.

Parenting is hard.

Most of the time, it’s impossible to see just where you’re headed, the speed at which you travel is terrifying and there’s no good way to stop once you start. And if you crash and burn, it’s not just yourself you’ll be hurting. There’s that precious cargo.

You take a plane down, you’re dead. You screw up your kids, you’re a bad parent.

That’s a lot worse than being dead.

Raising a child, you have to be the pilot, the copilot and the navigator.

Oh, and you’re also the flight attendant. You spend a lot of time making everyone but yourself comfortable.

The instinct to nurture and protect your young is a good start. It certainly helps. But nothing teaches like experience.

Which brings me to my point.

Mother’s Day is coming up. That’s a good time to think about who got you where you are today.

Most of us have someone, a mother or a mother figure who kept us aloft. She was the calm voice that told us to buckle up and breathe deeply. She guided us around storms and didn’t bail when the going got rough.

She brought us in safely. She gave us our wings. She put our feet on the ground.

This Mother’s Day, buy a card. Pick a flower. Take your mother somewhere she can wear a pretty dress.

And while you’re at it, by all means, tell her thanks for the ride.


 

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