Hey Kids: Before We Were Mothers, We Were Kids Too (Yes, Really)

by Julie Scagell
monkeybusinessimages / iStock

Most women I know love being mothers. Motherhood has expanded our capacity for love and transformed us as women. It is a job that is all-consuming — it requires being the very best version of ourselves while constantly draining us of the precious resources we need to do so. And while we navigate this road of parenthood, we recognize our children are trying to find their own way.

It’s hard for children to comprehend that we were where they are, not so long ago. Our children sigh and say, “You wouldn’t understand,” and “You don’t know what it’s like. You can’t possibly know what I’m going through.” You only see us as your mother, the same way we saw our own mothers so many years before.

We are the ones who tuck you in at night and check under your bed for monsters. The one who remembers you only like crunchy peanut butter on your sandwiches, bread pristinely cut so not a speck of crust is showing. The one who wears sensible shoes and always carries extra Goldfish crackers in our purse.

But we are more than just mothers.

Some of us were “tomboys”. We played kickball with the neighborhood boys for hours and climbed enormous oak trees in our cul-de-sac. We caught lightning bugs in mason jars until our mothers yelled at us to come inside for dinner. Some of us were officious — the ringleader — for all kinds of devilish escapades.

We wanted to be veterinarians and police officers and Olympic gymnasts. We went to sleep at night in our Wonder Woman Underroos and dreamt about traveling the world. We wanted to do something, to be someone important. We were free.

We loved music. We played cassette tapes over and over again; carefully learning every word of “Piano Man” so that we could impress our friends. We would spend hours in our rooms listening to Led Zeppelin and Stevie Nicks, inserting ourselves into their wistful lyrics of days gone by and lovers lost.

We kissed boys behind school bleachers and changed into our friend’s clothes at school — ones our own mothers most certainly would not have approved. We told our parents we were going to the movies then snuck behind theaters and watched upperclassmen drink auburn liquid out of brown paper bags. We were fearless, unburdened by responsibilities. We were fun.

We spent summers swimming laps at the community pool with friends, drinking cherry cream soda and eating cheese sandwiches under beach towels while our dads played racquetball. We spent our nights at the skating rink, arms linked together; our favorite airbrushed comb sticking purposefully out of our back pockets. We were unstoppable.

Some of us were followers, spending years trying to fit in. Maybe we moved into new schools, in new states, and had to start all over again. We could be moldable then, just trying to find our way.

We fell in love — more than once. We were content to give our hearts away then learned later how essential it is to make sure the person you give it to recognizes its value. We were someone else’s everything, the center of their world.

We were determined. Some of us finished college, working two jobs and living off ramen noodles and Zima. We traveled with friends and spent summer nights on back porches trading stories and making plans. We had the world at our fingertips.

Being a mother has categorically changed us for the better, of that we are sure. But we were all of these things before you came into this world. We have been where you are now. All of your hopes and fears, we felt those too. We won’t pretend to understand it all, but know we are more than just a mother. We were once just like you.