|My life revolves around these kids,
thanks to someone they’ll never know.
I had just turned 20 the day I became a mother.
But there were no hospitals or nurses. There was no doctor, no husband, no labor. And there was no baby.
On the day I became a mother, I was living in China. It was my second day of teaching English to a small class of 6 year olds at the Hefei Guanghua Boarding School. I was sick with the worst cold of my life and I’d lost my voice, so I had another teacher helping me out with my lesson that day. I was running interference, trying to show the kids what to do while she did all the talking. We were playing some game that included a lot of running. I couldn’t tell you what the game was, or even what the lesson was about. All I remember is David.
David was giving us a lot of trouble. He wasn’t listening (which wasn’t totally his fault…he didn’t know any English yet), but he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to. On purpose. His eyes were full of mischief and he was having a great time! I couldn’t tell him what to do. I couldn’t really tell him anything at all without a voice. And he wouldn’t have understood me anyway. He was causing trouble and distracting the other kids, so my mind raced as to what I could do to settle him down.
The thought came to my mind Give him a hug. It was unexpected. It wasn’t necessarily natural for me. I didn’t come from a huggy family and the only people I hugged with any regularity were the guys I dated (sorry Mom!). And I wasn’t dating in China. But that thought was all I had, so I stopped what I was doing and gave him a hug.
Immediately he stopped, put his little arms around my waist, and just held on. He hugged and hugged and hugged me. After a minute or two he let go and joined the other kids for the lesson. And like magic, he gave us no more trouble. Not that day. Not that week. Not that semester.
I was dumbfounded. All I did was give him a hug. A hug! But in return I got an angel student, a brilliant smile whenever I saw him, and more hugs in a 5 month period than I’d probably ever had in my life. He hugged me whenever he saw me outside of class, and I got lots of hugs in class too. I could tell when he was having a hard day, because those hugs were longer and tighter. One day after he gave me a hug, he pointed up at me and said one of the English words he’d picked up. He said, “Mother.” And really, that is what I had become without even realizing it.
This was a boarding school. These babies (ages ranged from 5-17) were living on their own, without their parents. Some of them lived so far away from home that they visited their families just two or three times a year. A handful of kids never visited at all. These were amazing kids, but they were still away from home. All. The. Time. No parents to read to them, rock them, or tuck them into bed. No parents to listen to jokes, kiss little hurts, or make them practice the piano. No parents to hug them. It’s been more than a decade now and I still cry thinking about these kids. Because they, especially David, were my first children. The children who first taught me about Mothering.
|At the end of the semester, my teaching friend Gina and I (that’s me in the yellow) took pictures with the kids. This is David, right after he kissed me on the cheek and tried to run away! Awesome.|
Now I have four children of my own, and this lesson in Mothering can be hard to remember. Sometimes amidst the tantrums and fighting and messes and scheduling, Mothering becomes hard. And when Mothering becomes hard, it can be hard to remember good Mothering. But this is when it matters most.
So, how do we get back on track when the craziness of life pushes us off course?
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
HUG YOUR BABIES
There are countless articles and books and magazines dedicated to good parenting. And much of it is wonderful information. But when my kids aren’t obeying and the house is a mess and someone just threw up and someone else is hurt and the dishwasher breaks and another kid needs a ride and everyone is crying about dinner and the baby needs a diaper change and there’s homework to be done (sometimes all occurring simultaneously), I don’t search my brain trying to recall that really great article that someone posted on Facebook. My brain would explode. But I can Stop. Take a deep breath. Hug my babies. And then, even though my problems don’t go away, I can handle them. I’m not perfect at this. Not even close. But perfection isn’t my goal. Improvement is my goal. And as long as I’m a little better today than I was yesterday, we may just survive this crazy thing called life!
“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” ~Virgina Satir