By Guest Blogger Alyssa Tabacca, author of Driving the Big Van

Some days as a mother look like a special occasion: children dressed in matching clothing, flowers and homemade cards. Some days as a mother look like routine: checking items off a to-do list in our sweatpants with messy buns. Some days as a mother look like struggle: tears and mourning and just getting by. And then there are days that don’t quite fit into the mold. Those are the days I didn’t anticipate before having children. I knew there would be tough days. I knew there would be beautiful days. I did not know how many of a mother’s days would be spent like a little duck, calm on the surface but paddling away like crazy under the water.

I was raised by incredible parents. They always knew the right thing to say. They had the answer in the dilema before I knew the question completely. They could solve any problem. Fix any broken piece. They were eternally calm in the face of disasters. I did not know then that they may have been paddling furiously under the surface the whole time.

I don’t mean to imply that it isn’t okay for others, especially our children, to know that we struggle, that life is hard. But not every moment is a moment for that. One of the best things I’ve figured out as a mom is that sometimes your only real job is to fake-believe that everything is going to be okay. To speak calmly and move about doing tiny things that cause no more damage as you develop a plan for finding someone else who has more knowledge to fill in the gaps. You don’t let the kids see you sweat because if they believe we think it’s going to be okay then maybe they can believe it’s going to be okay, too.

Yesterday my whole crew was out on the front yard after my son Lucas finished mowing the neighbor’s yard. The kids were getting ready to help my husband plant flowers, and my 7-year-old Grace was running into the garage to find the shovels. I don’t really have much luck with plants…but I was called outside for an advisory role that my husband very kindly reserves for me, so that I feel involved. And all of a sudden a scream ripped through the air. I will admit here that Grace is an expressive girl. Screams are part of her daily language. She feels big emotions. She has big lungs. Years ago I remember holding her in church while she bellowed, after having just returned from the outside where we had retreated in a small attempt to keep her from disrupting the entire service. Our Pastor smiled and said to the whole congregation,  “Sign that girl up for the choir! She has the lungs for it!” She’s always been a screamer. So the scream itself wasn’t that alarming. But this was not your average scream. This was more like the cry of a panicked animal. And then the other kids joined the screams, running back from the
garage with fear on their faces. I had no idea what was coming, but I knew it wasn’t good. But I’m the mom, so my job was to hear the screams, see the kids running, and run toward the problem.

When I did I was met by Grace, still screaming, trembling, holding her hand out and bleeding. It was not good. It turned out she had smashed her finger in the door. For the second day in a row. And this time the door had latched. And she wasn’t able to get it out right away. Suffice it to say the visual of her injury was not good. I had absolutely no idea what the next step was. I had never seen an injury like this one. Nor had I had a child sustain a major injury in the time of pandemic. But this is what being a mother’s day feels like sometimes. I calmly told one child to get paper towels and asked my husband to grab my phone so I could text a few fellow moms of 5 who happen to be doctors’ wives. I cleaned out the wound (as best she would let me), had my youngest bring a Gatorade (what injury isn’t made better by Gatorade?) and held my girl in my arms while our smart doctor friend calmly told us to head to the Urgent Care.

This was not the first day like this in my time as a mom. We’d gone down a similar road once with my oldest about 8 years ago. That time I made it to the hospital with my daughter and her broken arm with no diaper bag for the baby and no shoes on the toddler’s feet. 8 years of experience later and I did better. I walked out the door with our face masks and tennis shoes and my daughter holding her much loved stuffed animal. (Although I still managed to have to go out in my least world-friendly clothes. I imagine in any other setting as soon as I left the room other women would have looked to each other with questions of “Why those shorts though? Did she think they looked okay to go in public?” But it was an emergency, and it’s hard fitting in shorts while quarantining!) I still didn’t know exactly what to do, but this time I knew that it was okay to not know what to do. I texted my parents after it was all okay to let them know Grace was a trooper despite my initial reaction of remaining calm while wanting to yell “Gross! What do we do!!!??” My dad replied with the perfect wisdom. “That’s Parenting. You kind of make things up as they come. You did a good job.”

See what I mean about my parents? I still think they are knocking it out the park every time.

Right now we are all doing things we never knew we were going to have to do: Run a homeschool from our dining rooms; wear masks to go to the grocery store, stay in our homes day after day after day. But the beauty of this is our kids don’t know what we are supposed to be doing either. In fact, if they are anything like I was as a kid, they don’t know that it’s possible for us to not know what to do. My son, Lucas, asked me this morning if this was the worst pandemic I have ever lived through. He thinks I’ve done this nonsense before. (When I said it was the ONLY pandemic I’ve lived through he innocently asked “What about the plague?” so maybe I’m not a fantastic homeschool teacher in the area of World History timelines, but we can’t be perfect.)

But the universal beauty of what it means to be a mom is still here. It’s still strong. Because we are the calm in the storm. We are the safe place to question. We are the presence that tells our family it’s all going to be okay. Because maybe we are just pretending, but that feeling of safety we give our children isn’t pretend. It’s Motherhood. And it’s what fills all of our days.

Wishing you all a wonderful Mother’s Day!

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