My Life/Her Life Before My Eyes

Written by Karen, a mom without a blog

This past weekend, I had the absolute privilege to watch my oldest daughter perform one of the leads in her middle school play. Nothing does a parent prouder than seeing your offspring shine on stage. You’d think that watching her and feeling my heart swell with pride would be one of those seriously defining moments of parenthood…

Well, you’d be right… but not in the way you might think. That moment just got the ball rolling…

To give perspective, you have to travel back in time with me a bit and realize that I was not someone who was destined to be a mother. I was never one to coo, coddle and drool over every baby, toddler and child who happened to cross my path.

I cringe now to admit my disinterest in anything child…

To be a MOM, well that was so far off my radar… In my 20s, I was all about my career, my friends and FUN. I wasn’t really up for the kind of 24/7 – no turning back kind of commitment that motherhood presented…sorry, not for me.

Enter my gorgeous husband, a man I felt most certainly was my match within just a few dates… Um, you may hate me for this, but we became pregnant only 3 months into our relationship! Ooops!!!! Luckily, we were destined for each other, which eased (a bit) the apprehension of what pregnancy would eventually do to my body and my life. 

We married on New Years Eve 1994 – just a few days shy of my being unable to squeeze into my wedding gown. After the excitement of the wedding, moving in together and the honeymoon died down, reality started to hit… Big time.

AHHHHHHH! I’m pregnant!!! My belly was starting to bulge and a little “fluttering” was happening inside – proof that a REAL baby was GROWING and MOVING AROUND inside of me! My entire life was just months from changing in ways I really didn’t think were possible – at least not for me!

I was mostly calm (true to my basic personality), but I had many, many, many moments of complete fear and total panic. I remember pulling over into a grocery store parking lot in LA, calling my new hubby at work and tearfully wailing, “WHAT am I EVER going to feed this thing when it comes out???”

It’s so difficult to truly describe what being pregnant is really like until you experience it, right? I remember peace, I remember ridiculous HUNGER, I remember tears, I remember Big Macs, I remember falling asleep at work, I remember huge ankles, I remember severe anxiety, I remember birthing classes, tours and books. I remember the brownie I had that put me into labor, I remember fear that I was going to die, I remember ice chips, I remember intense pain, I remember wonderful epidural relief, I remember pushing FOREVER, I remember the threat of forceps, I remember the last push, I remember purple baby, suction, crying baby, crying daddy, crying me – then BOOM – a bundle wrapped neatly in a clean blanket. This bundle had DIMPLES. This bundle was ours. Wow, double wow, three dimples…triple wow.

You would think that this moment of the birth of my first child was the absolute defining moment of parenthood for me. It was on that day, I guess… but I truly had NO IDEA. I mean people tell you that it is difficult to be a parent, but don’t really TELL you.  

As my Teenage Princess commanded center stage last Friday night, I truly saw her life flash before my eyes. I instantly realized I couldn’t pinpoint any one moment that defined motherhood for me. It was just a rush of memories – flashes – that wouldn’t stop…

I saw a colicky baby screaming her way through every dinner hour for 3 months straight.

I saw my dad become a proud, fascinated, completely hooked grandpa.

I saw my beloved dog become an afterthought stuck out on the back porch.

I saw a charming toddler pulling every book from the bottom two shelves of our bookcase for the 200th time.

I saw a preschooler whose closest friends were boys.

I saw a preschooler who was so PAINFULLY shy she couldn’t tell anyone her own name when asked.

I saw a kindergartener play soccer on a team she called “Dog-a-mations” – and proudly wearing the matching hair bows that were next to impossible to add to the shortest little girl haircut ever.

I saw a 6-year-old witness a child sing the National Anthem at Dodger Stadium and proclaim, “I want to do that someday.”

I saw that same child audition less than a year later at the Minor League AAA Club, Salt Lake Stingers, and wow everyone with her rendition of “Oh say can you see…”

I saw a 7, 8 and 9-year-old who wanted to try every sport, dance class, activity and camp anyone could ever dream up… all by herself… we never had to sign her up with a friend, she was fine with putting herself into something new without peer support.

I saw a 9-year-old on a family camping trip, look at a plate of cookies with only two left and… instead of giving one to her 4 year old sister, immediately SHOVING both into her mouth before anyone noticed. 

I saw a 10-year-old decide to leave her neighborhood school and start to attend a charter school that concentrated on one of her major loves – the arts. Again, on her own.

I saw a fifth grader pulled in a thousand directions emotionally as she watched her newborn baby sister struggle daily with trying to live.

I saw an 11-year-old take acting classes, get an agent and force auditions on her family even though she remained quiet and shy.

I saw a little kid with crooked teeth and a sweet, soft voice go HURTLING down an icy slope on skis, whipping around gates, trying her best to get a better time than her dad.

I saw a 12-year-old begging her parents to let her sign up for a 2009 mission trip to Africa with her church youth group. In a whole other country on a whole other continent on the other side of the world – without her mom.

I saw a 13-year-old insist on applying to a unique academic program for next year in HIGH SCHOOL (yes, high school) that will again take her away from her neighborhood, but will give her unlimited opportunities.

I see a budding teen slowly pulling away and growing up – one whose embarrassment of me only solidifies my place in the mom club.

I’ve seen my almost 14-year-old struggle through the complete morass of middle school issues and come out at the end absolutely SHINING.

Center stage… bright lights and all… teeth finally straightened from years of braces, her dimples absolutely blazing, all her mom can think about is… how did I get so lucky?

It took FOREVER for us to see her after the performance, but when we did, we hugged her and she burst into tears, unable to believe that it was all over.

…What is it about getting a hug from mom that still brings out the waterworks? And is it sick that I actually enjoyed, no reveled in that sweet moment? (Before she hastily cleaned up her running makeup, put on a brave face and turned to face her friends).

Seeing my teenager’s life flash before my eyes also served as a mental scrapbook of my life as a mother. I can’t believe how fast it has gone… she forced me into becoming a mom when I wasn’t ready and constantly challenges me to stay on my game, but I wouldn’t change a MINUTE of it.

I guess I feel like the journey I’ve been on with my teenager over the past 14 years is not close to complete, and I realize that I’m no longer even close to cool or hip anymore. In her eyes, I’m “just a mom.”

But for me, for now, that’s okay…

I’ll take a mountain of defining moments (and countless more to come), soggy, emotional hugs and living as “just a mom” and I’ll use them as a re-affirmation of my place in the cock-eyed, tremendously fulfilling land of motherhood. A place I used to fear (for valid reasons it turns out), but a place I’m willing to continue to struggle each day to embrace. It’s absolutely worth it.

My gorgeous husband and I adoring our new baby girl, Samantha

The beginning of my life with her 

From Lee: Sorry peeps I couldn’t resist.  This is me and my dude holding 
Karen’s precious baby girl waaaayyyyy before we were ever ready to be parents.
Karen emailed me this pic and wow. Time flies.

Sami at her 4th birthday party surrounded by all of her dude friends.

My brace-filled 5th grader with her gorgeous dimples

Her public singing debut

My quiet daughter brave in front of thousands!

My little girl about to graduate from 8th grade

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