5 Things I’d Like to Tell my 17 year-old Self About Motherhood

( if only I wouldn’t run away screaming first)

    As a teenager, motherhood seemed so far away. It also seemed rather sweet, fun and idyllic. I love being a mom, cherish it actually, but there are some less than perfect aspects someone should have told me about motherhood before I became a mother. But then, maybe it’s a good thing no one clued me in. I might have run away, horrified, vowing to never become a mom. Still, a little dose of realism never hurts. So, I’m writing to my blissfully ignorant past self.

1. Yes, something the size of melon really will have to come out of a space the size of a lemon.

And somehow, it works. Enough said.

2. You will become obsessed with poop. (Not to mention routinely covered in it.)

At seventeen, you won’t even acknowledge that pooping is a bodily function. You won’t admit that you do it, and you can’t possibly fathom purposefully staring at excrement, studying it even. Yet, that is something you have spent nearly eleven years of motherhood doing.

I’ve talked to other moms, and they are obsessed with their babies’ poop, too. It’s a rather common but disturbing complex of motherhood. Is there enough? Is it the right color? Is the proper consistency? But you, my lucky friend, will be more preoccupied with poop than most. All four of your children will have an intolerance to the protein in dairy, which will create for them blood and mucus in their stool if you while nursing consume any tiny particle of the offending protein. You will constantly stare at each and every diaper produced by every child and minutely examine it for any signs of trouble. But for you, it doesn’t stop with the diaper stage. Oh no.

You’ll be privileged to have your children call you in to the bathroom every time they go number two so they can show it to you when you are slowly giving them bits of dairy to see if they have outgrown their intolerance. And you will eagerly shove your face down near the toilet and peer intently at its contents. Only once will you realize how it must look to others, when your husband walks in and sees you hovering over the open, full potty and bursts out laughing. Oh yes. All this glamour is waiting for you a mere seven years into your future.

3. Your children will put things in their mouths at which even pigs would turn up their snouts.

At seventeen, you would cringe if one of your friends adhered to the “three second rule” and popped some piece of food into their mouth they had dropped. The germs, the dirt, the contamination! (Shudder.) The three second rule will be so benign, though. You will only wish that your children were popping something edible into their mouths, no matter how long it had been on the ground.

Though all your children have eaten their fair share of inedible bits and pieces, your second child has a particularly interesting history of filling her mouth with things better put in the garbage. Please, try not to vomit on your hiking boots that you always wore with your flannels.

One time, this child put ABC gum in her mouth. But it wasn’t just already chewed; it was pried up from the asphalt of a parking lot, having been run over who knows how many times. It probably contained enough oil and gas in it to make OPEC jealous. She also put a small nugget of her older sibling’s poop in her mouth. The older child had a constipation problem and was constantly dropping from his underwear hard little marbles all over the house. (Sigh, more poop issues.) She promptly spit that one out on her own. You had to really talk to get her to give up the gum. But, perhaps the worst–worse than poop you say?–was something she found on the floor of a hotel room we had just checked into. We were putting away the luggage and saw that she had something in her mouth. As I pried it open and extracted the object, I found a toe nail clipping from some stranger’s big toe, a former guest’s present that housekeeping apparently didn’t vacuum up. We immediately checked out and found another hotel. But you won’t be able to run away from all the detritus that will end up in your children’s mouths.

4. Your children will embarrass you far more than your parents ever could.

I know, you think your parents are extraordinarily embarrassing. They say stupid things in front of your friends. Your dad breaks out into song just to tease you. They offer to show anyone you can get to date you baby pictures. However, all of that pales in comparison to the embarrassment your children will inflict upon you.

Just a few days ago you had to sit in an enormously long line at the pharmacy. The techs were having trouble getting a discount card to work for some eye drops you needed. You spent a very long thirty minutes off to the side with your toddler, who went from singing to screaming in about ten seconds. The tantrum wasn’t the embarrassing part, though. It only served to make everyone look your way. And during those twenty minutes, your beautiful daughter passed some of the most ghastly, silent gas on the planet. And all twenty or so people who came through the line were obviously smelling it, too. Their foreheads puckered, their eyes narrowed, their noses wrinkled, and their lips curled up over their teeth. And each and every one of them blamed you. You could tell by the looks coming your way. What’s a mom to do? Point to the child and blame her? Ignore it? Or, do what you did and just get more and more red in the face, thereby erroneously implicating yourself further?

Kids have no filter. They call it like they see it, even when you just want to clamp your hand over their tiny but loud mouths. Your oldest, in the middle of the frozen food section, commented on a lady he saw. We had just had a family discussion on why we thought modesty was important. He had apparently been listening a little too well. This woman was rather round and was dressed in a halter top and cut-offs. Your little darling proceeded to point at her and say, “Mom, she is showing a lot of skin. And I mean a lot. Did you even know that anybody had that much skin?” Mortified, I put his hand down, hastily apologized to the woman, and dashed from the store.

5. Your children will bring you more joy and fulfillment than you can even fathom in that seventeen year old brain of yours.

You thought you were happy at seventeen. And you were, but your kids will bring a whole new meaning to happiness. When that cute boy you liked smiled at you, you wanted to burst into song. When each of your children smiled at you for the first time, you unabashedly burst into joyful tears. When you got your first kiss, you thought your head would float away. When you get your daily, snotty, sloppy kisses from your kids, your spirit lifts momentarily to that higher plane you’re seeking. When that first boy told you that he loved you, you thought your life was complete. Each time your kids say, “I love you, Mommy,” you complete your ever-expanding heart. Becoming a mother was the best decision you ever made. Just try to remember that the next time you’re covered in some bodily substance that doesn’t belong to you.

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