It’s All About Perspective


One of my greatest joys as a mother has been the way that I am constantly learning from my children.

As adults, my children have helped me to broaden my views in so many ways. They’ve challenged me to look beyond my own “echo chamber” and to recognize the validity of other viewpoints.

One of my sons, in particular, has been consistent in his gentle reminders to take other people’s perspectives into account when I form my many opinions. Whether the topic is politics or family dynamics, he has reminded me more than once that my idea of the facts is only my own personal perspective. The other person’s views are based on the way that they experienced the same events; their perspective is valid, so their opinions are valid.

While these ideas have made me uncomfortable more than once, and annoyed quite a few times, I treasure their honesty. I treasure the fact that they have helped me to keep my mind at least a little bit open as I move through this complex life.

Tonight I am thinking of that son. He is on my mind, and in my heart, because thirty years ago tonight, I was working very hard to bring him into this world.

I’m thinking about his birthday from the perspective of a mother. At the same time, I know that he is experiencing the same day from the perspective of a young man.

I think about the night of his birth. I think of my fear that I wouldn’t be able to deliver him safely. I think about my pain, and my hopes and the overwhelming love that I felt for him before he had ever drawn a breath.

For me, this night is a time to reflect on the sweet, careful, thoughtful little boy who filled my heart with his tenderness. I think back on his first smiles, his first steps, his raspy little voice and his wide green eyes. I remember, as if it had been only yesterday, how his absolute beauty took my breath away.

I remember the rigid and righteous boy who saw the world in black and white. The stubborn child who was the only one of my three with enough dug in determination to wait out any mother’s ultimatum.

For me, this birthday is a reminder of all of his birthdays; every party, every game, every sleepover with the boys in the backyard.

Mostly, this birthday is my celebration of the kind, smart, articulate man that grew out of that night of labor. This is my sending up of gratitude to the heavens for having put our son in our lives.

But perspective is everything.

I am well aware of the fact that while I remember the feeling of my baby in my arms, my son is looking back on the first part of his life. I am aware that this birthday is mostly likely a look back, an assessment, and a kind of measuring of where he has come in life thus far.

I suspect that this birthday is, for him, equal parts happy memory and sadness at lost opportunities. I suspect that it is a time to regroup and plan the next steps on his journey.

Perspective is everything.

Tonight I sit on my deck, looking at the darkening sky. I think about how much my love for my children has grown with every passing year. I wish that somehow I could show my son just how much I still love him, and how grateful I am for him.

Happy Birthday, honey.

I love you more than my next breath.

Now I Know How Much You Love Me


Thirty four years ago tonight, I was elated, scared, confident and worried. Thirty four years ago tonight, I was in Boston’s Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, trying with all my might to give birth to my first child.

It was a long and daunting process, but it ultimately resulted in Paul and I holding our very own daughter in our arms. I remember looking into her wide open dark eyes and thinking to myself that life would never be boring again.

One look at her sweet chin and I was in love. Head over heels, who-cares-about-the-rest-of-the-world in love, love, LOVE.

I remember one moment in the hospital. I was on lots of medication, having just had a C-Section. My baby girl was in my arms, the lights were low, and it was just the two of us, breathing in each other’s breaths. I was swept with the deep love that I felt; I knew that if anyone or anything threatened this child, I would kill them or die in the attempt.

I remember resting my cheek against hers and thinking about my Mom. “Wow,” I whispered into the quiet room, “Momma, now I know how much you love me.”

Nothing before that moment had allowed me to fully understand just how deeply my own Mother loved me. I finally understood.

My relationship with Mother has not always been smooth or gentle or free of the barbs that come with jealousy, anger, rebellion. My relationship with my daughter hasn’t either.

But now I find myself almost equally balanced between the two of them, and I am overwhelmed with how sweetly and how deeply my love for them both reaches.

My daughter is the best Mother I know.

She is devoted, calm, loving, supportive and flexible. She keeps her sense of humor intact.

Right now, she is pregnant with her third child; her health, her strength and her stamina are always a worry to me. She is an elementary school teacher, too, so rest time is not something that comes to her easily.

But she is smiling, happy with her life, excited about her career, her children, her new baby and the husband she loves.

She’s kind of my hero.

And my Mother, who will turn 90 in a few weeks, is my other hero. And my other worry.

Mom is still at home, with help from a health aide and from her children. She is increasingly fragile, increasingly confused, in need of more care every month.

It breaks my heart to see my warrior woman Momma, who was the first feminist I ever knew, sinking into her last days.

And yet.

I go to see her once a week. We share a meal, we talk about the past, we do little chores around the house.

And every single time, Mom tells me that she is proud of me, and that she is grateful for my presence. She tells me that she loves me “more” than I love her.

Tonight my heart is filled with a potent mix of love, pride, sadness and joy.

I spent the day baking a beautiful chocolate cake with my grandkids, who love their Mom so much. There were paintings and macaroni necklaces to celebrate her birthday.

I looked at my little granddaughter at one point. I felt my place in a long, long, long line of women and their mothers and their daughters.

I owe my life to my Mom. In turn, she allowed me to have my daughter. Who has blessed my life with her own children.

I look at my grandchildren, dressed in dance clothes, frosting a cake that we’d made together. I thought of my Mom.

“Now I truly know how much you love me.”