When you're expecting your first child, the avalanche of parenting advice that rushes your way can be more than a little overwhelming. There are suggestions from friends, tips from family members, link after link of parenting stories online. And then, of course, there are all the pointers you pick up on your own — like, say, when I'm rewatching Friday Night Lights for the fourth time and I take note of Tami Taylor's friendly-but-not-your-best-friend approach to motherhood.
More than anything, of course, as I try to imagine myself as a mother, I look to my mom. I remember the way she tucked me in when I was little — the music box that played, the final words she said each night: "Love you infinity times infinity." I remember the notes she left in my lunchbox all the way through high school, the times she saved the day by just being there. Again and again, I've replayed scenes where she was more selfless than I'm afraid I'll ever be and more empathetic than, at times, I may have deserved. I remember feeling safe, always.
She's not perfect, of course — nobody is. She's usually late, she's the queen of terribly cheesy jokes, and sometimes she cares so deeply that I hesitate to share the tough things with her, afraid she'll panic for me. There's one thing, though, one quality of my mom's, that I'm vowing to pass on, and that's her relentless need to celebrate the little things.
Every time I got an A on an assignment, the paper made its way onto our refrigerator for the week. Whenever I scored a goal in my soccer games or won first place in a swim meet, I got to pick what we had for dinner. On each birthday, Mom woke me up by tiptoeing into my room, singing happy birthday, and handing me a small gift to open. There was the time she and my dad wore bright orange, homemade t-shirts to surprise me at the half-marathon finish line. Or the time she planned a surprise party for me . . . actually, make that three times. (The woman loves surprises.)
Sometimes I wonder where that heart of gold comes from. Maybe it's her Southern roots, or from a life lived in the kind Midwest, or maybe she took after the people who raised her. In any case, it's second nature to her, and the point is: she knows how to show love, and she does it. It's as simple and as difficult as that.
My mom lives across the country now, but still she finds ways to celebrate the special moments from afar. When I did an exciting celebrity interview, she sent flowers. When I got promoted, my favorite homemade sugar cookies showed up at the front door. And when my husband and I bought a house, she gave us a tiny Christmas ornament: a home with our last name written over the door.
I come from a huge family. My parents have five kids and six grandkids, and my mom's babysitting more often than not. Still, as big as the family has gotten, that's never diluted her love for any of us. There's always plenty to go around, and she makes sure we all feel it — not just on holidays or on birthdays or when the major milestones happen, but every day, in the smaller moments.
I hope I'll someday do the same. I'm definitely going to try.