I’m 37 years old, but I damn well ran to my mommy when I had a massive, nearly debilitating headache recently. No amount of ibuprofen was cutting it, and I decided the only cure was the one I’ve been relying on since birth, the person I’ve turned to in almost every time of brokenness — physical or otherwise — my mother, my first caregiver, and the endless well of TLC she’s never failed to provide.
The second I flopped myself onto her couch (maybe a little dramatically, to garner some of that mom-sympathy), like magic, I started to feel a little better. It wasn’t because of the nostalgia of my surroundings. It wasn’t the same couch I lay on as a kid, not the house I grew up in — it isn’t even in the same area of the country.
But just the simple act of regressing to a childlike state and letting my mom’s love and concern flood over me again was therapeutic in itself. My headache didn’t just miraculously go away, of course, but it was amazing how much I had improved by the time I turned into a grown-up again and went back to my big-girl house.
And this is what I hope for my own kids: I want them to always be able to come home.
As they grow, and the world inevitably chews them up and spits them out as it does to all of us, I want to remain their place of refuge. I want to be their soft spot to land when they’re between a rock and a hard place, and for them to know that unequivocally; that the availability of my love and care will always be as constant as the sky. No matter how old they are, what kind of mess they find themselves in or baggage they’re struggling with, I want them to feel relief the minute they walk through my door.
To be clear, I don’t mean bailing them out. I mean seeing them through. (There’s a big difference.) I’m doing my best to raise them to be strong, independent, and self-sufficient, depending on themselves above all. Fixing their problems for them, as much as it’s sometimes a parent’s inclination to do because we hate to see our kids suffer, is not a gift. It doesn’t benefit them in the long run.
But while they’re trying to figure it out on their own, when their hearts and minds feel broken and busted and heavy and frayed with the weight of it all, I will be the salve. I’ll cook their favorite meals, fluff up their pillows just-so, smooth back their hair — even if there’s gray in it by then — and provide all the soothing compassion they need so they can regain the strength to power through whatever is troubling them.
Just as I dried their tears when they were tiny, I’ll dry them again when they’re 20 or 30 or 40 or 50. Because though our bodies may age, they’re still powered by the same hearts I’ve loved since the first moment they flickered to life. And mine will always speak to theirs, in the inaudible language only mothers and children understand.
As adults, I know they’ll need me less and less frequently, and as wistful as that makes me feel, that’s the ultimate goal. If I’ve raised them to stand on their own two feet in the face of adversity, I’ve done my job. But not even the strongest people are immune to weakness or the consequences of poor decisions. In those moments, I hope they’ll remember that my door, my arms, and my heart are always open to them.
Because they will always be my babies, and I’ll be ready to offer them all the comfort I can — from headache to heartache and anything in between.