“There’s a story behind everything…but behind all your stories is always your mother’s story…because hers is where yours begins.” – Mitch Albom, For One More Day
I had a blast interviewing my mom last year on marriage and lasting love, and thought it was time for a followup. Yesterday we chatted by phone about motherhood. Here’s what my ebulient mama had to say, once again revealing tidbits I wasn’t aware of.
August: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a mom?
Caroline: I can tell you the exact moment. I went to the hospital and my sister, Jackie, had just had her first baby. That was the first time I saw a baby up close, and I thought, “That’s what I want!” I always knew I wanted kids, but that sealed the deal.
August: What’s surprised you the most about parenthood?
Caroline: I’ve enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Children are so full of wonder… Also, your hair can be standing on end, and you can look in the mirror and think, “OH MY!” Well, you know my morning hair.
August: [laughs] Yes, but don’t worry. I won’t post a picture.
Caroline: You can look just awful, and you go to pick up a baby from the crib, and they think you’re just gorgeous! They love you either way.
August: Aw. You’re welcome!
August: What’s one of your favorite funny memories?
Caroline: One night when Dad was working nights, I was sleeping on the couch, and you had colic, you know.
August: So I’ve heard.
Caroline: You were a siren at two or three in the morning. So I took you to the living room and hours later, I was sleeping on the couch. I jolted upright and thought, “Oh no! Where is she? What did I do with her?” And there you were, sound asleep on my shoulder.
August: [laughs] So I did sleep every once in a while.
Caroline: Yep! You could get away on such little sleep, yet were just full of joy. And joy is contagious.
August: I’m glad colic isn’t.
Caroline: Colic seems really long when you’re screaming in the middle of the night. But when it’s done, we’d think, that wasn’t so bad! You sort of forget the bad parts.
August: Ah. Post-colic amnesia. Sweet! Speaking of noise, I get my blurting tendencies from you. Do you remember my first one?
Caroline: Do I… It was just before Kelly was born. You were only about 18 months, and nursing just a couple of times a day. So I gave you a tiny glass of milk and explained that you’re still you’re going to get your milk, but you’re getting it from a cup now because Mama is having another baby. You looked at me and said, “So you’re going to be four mommies?” I said, “Yes.” And you said, “Well there’s only one daddy. And he’s ALL MINE.”
August: Such a giver, I was. Good thing I learned to share.
Caroline: You were a talker very early. Your first words were ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada.’ And you loved books.
August: I remember. You gave me a lot of quiet time with those books.
Caroline: That’s what YOU remember. You didn’t have much quiet time. You always thought you were in there for hours. I just gave you a chill out moment—time to refocus.
August: If you say so. I still need those.
Caroline: One thing you did that drove Aaron nuts, was you’d sit in your car seat and sing about everything you saw out the window, at the top of your lungs. And you’d look at Aaron and he looked like had smoke coming out of his ears.
August: I don’t blame him! But geez. Sometimes a girl gets bored.
Caroline: One of the funniest things, I remember as clear as a bell. It was your first experience with watermelon, at Grandma’s. Kelly had just started talking, and you were probably four. She held up her watermelon to you and said, “What’s this?” And you said, “I don’t know! But it has little black shiny things in it!” You reminded me of two little old ladies chatting about some newfangled thing. Now you can get watermelon all year long, but then it was only available in the summer.
August: Super cute. Was it different raising Aaron, compared to us four girls? Or were we all just really different?
Caroline: What your sex is was irrelevant. You all have blue eyes and blondish hair, but every one of you is unique. When you have four girls, you can really see the differences—very individual.
I never had a little brother, and wasn’t around little boys very much. I thought they loved cars and other stereotypical stuff, so one year I bought Aaron the cutest set of little cars and trucks from the Sears catalogue. But I realized I’d bought it for me. I liked it, and thought that he should like it. He was nice about it, but he never played with them.
August: [laughs] That’s probably why he and I played “used car lot” later on and tried to sell them off.
Caroline: Now little Isabelle goes around with cars and goes, “Vroom, vroom, vroom. Truck!” She loves them.
August: You started having kids very early—20, right? Was it a shock?
Caroline: Yes, twenty. I don’t think that I’d even changed a diaper before. Dad taught me how. I think the biggest shock is to realize that they’re always there. They’re not going anywhere, and they’re your responsibility. It’s kind of like, “Here’s a sponge, and you’re going to teach it what it’s going to soak up.” Obviously kids make your own choices, but what things are you going to offer them? That’s a pretty awesome responsibility.
August: I can imagine. What’s your Mother’s Day wish?
Caroline: Well, I told the girls all I want for Mother’s Day is little handmade cards from the granddaughters, and that’s it.
August: Ha. Good luck with that.
Caroline: My Mother’s Day wish is this. You have chosen not to have kids like Carla has. But you’re a super special aunty to your nieces, and you can mother them if you want to. It’s not right or wrong to have a baby. If someone has them and they don’t want them, I would just love for them to find loving homes for them. There are so many loving people who want children but can’t have them.
August: That’s sweet, Mom. And cool that you’re so open minded. I’ve known for a long time that the only way I’d want to get pregnant is if one of my sisters needed to borrow my womb.
Caroline: [laughs hard] Hope you have lots of storage!
August: Well not all at once! Anyway, I’m glad they’re all fertile.
Caroline: I look at teachers who’ve never married, or never had kids. Their pupils are like their children, and they have more kids than any of us. I also wish that if people wish, they can be a mom. I don’t love you anymore or less because you have babies or you don’t have babies. And I was just telling Dad today that Zoe has an aura about her.
August: She does, doesn’t she? I love the way you tie it all into my dog—because you know that she’s my thing.
Caroline: Well she’s a special girl, my grand-dog-ter.
August: Brilliant and true. I have to head out, but if I find that picture of your morning hair from New York—
Caroline: Putsu! [Translation: AUGUST JOHNSON MCLAUGHLIN—Don’t you dare!]
Okay, okay… I’ll share her most recent poem instead:
Mama Brain, by Caroline
I looked forward to being a mom with great expectation,
Never realizing there would be days of great consternation.
Some sleepless nights, schedules to juggle, topped off with a bout of flu
Could leave me wondering, what on Earth would I do?
Motherhood is filled with hugs and fun, that’s a fact.
Motherhood is also a careful, loving balancing act.
Like sunshine following the rain, mothers rely on their mama brain.
(6 if you consider my Miami-bleached hair a creature)
What’s your favorite mom memory? What has your mother taught you? Any thoughts or questions for mine?
♥ Have a happy Mother’s Day! ♥