I was thinking the other day about a little memory of my childhood that has stayed with me. My mother would sometimes jog up at the high school track when we were all young, and we would accompany her and play amongst the empty stands, and vacant football field. We kept ourselves busy, while she kept herself in shape (and kept her sanity).
One day I was walking along side her during her cool down lap. From the field next to us, as we were on the outer lane, a bird darted out and layed down beside us and flapped it’s broken wing. I was so concerned and of course, my first instinct was to run up and hold it, to see how I could help. My mom told me not to, and explained that it was a whip-poor-will, and we must have strolled too closely to it’s nest of babies. She told me that this is how the mother bird protects it’s young…she offers herself up as a distraction to perceived predators to hopefully save her babies. I was amazed at the risk, the self sacrifice, just the wonder of such an instinct.
I understand now, of course, more than ever. I know what it feels like to be able to easily utter the words, “I would give my life for my child”…throw myself in front of a front train, jump into swirling waters, put myself in mortal danger…whatever it takes.
But I’ve realized those words are also easily, dramatically said when I know that I most likely will never be put in a situation where I will make a choice between life and death for myself in order to save my children.
Now that I’ve been a mother for almost 2 decades, I realize that I, like so many mothers across the world, will make thousands of choices in how I want to live my life as ‘mother’ and none of them would be as easy as uttering a phrase of dramatic and dying love. All of them will be tiny, little, unnoticeable choices to say NO to someone, sometimes myself, and YES to someone or something else, mostly my children.
A job turned down,
a career set aside,
a promotion not accepted.
A budget strained tight,
a road not taken.
A trip postponed,
a meal not eaten,
a lunch with a friend cancelled.
A nap forgotten,
a hair appointment delayed,
a book set down.
A night with no sleep,
a day with no shower,
a week with no break.
Little choices I will have to make at different stages, that would indeed might make my life harder, but would speak eons to them in terms of how much I value them, and to me in terms of how important I consider my role of mother. Nothing that will bring attention to me as a hero or someone extraordinary, certainly not something to award me for, or bring me fame of any kind. Just the opposite, actually. Things that might bring attention away from me for sure. Ordinary things that usually go unnoticed.
A no to something, means a yes to something else, I once read.
A no to the rejection to the “live every day like it’s your last” lifestyle we embrace in this country. A yes to the idea that I have a lifetime to accomplish all I want…decades that I will be able to take that nap, sleep through the night, reintroduce that planned career, go on that trip. But a short time to be MOTHER to an infant, to a toddler, to a child. Years I can never ever get back, and they can’t either. A price to be payed for sure.
It’s never really the big things…incredible rescues, death defying feats, or like the whip-poor-will, sacrficing our lives to deter danger. It’s never as dramatic or heroic. It’s easy to say, “I would give my life for my child”…of course, just like the wonderous instincts of the whip-poor-will, we all would. It’s never that easy…it’s little things that add up over a lifetime.
“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”