I am a mother. It’s a noun. The Oxford English dictionary defines it as “a woman in relation to her child or children.” Also, I mother. It’s a verb. “To bring up with care and affection. To look after kindly and protectively.” You wonder, during your youth or those months of your first pregnancy, what kind of mother you may be. Turns out, I am a mother who mothers. Why should that only apply to the child I gave birth to?
It's natural to love your child, to be proud of them, to mother them. Why not love and be proud of someone else's child? Why not mother them? Love isn't finite.
The summer our boys were born was pure magic. It was the hottest summer on record, and one by one I had watched my three closest friends give birth to their sons. Watched them change and grow in ways I perceived but couldn’t quite reach. Loved their boys and eagerly waited for my turn to come. Two of us chose to find out the sex, and two of us chose to wait, so by the time my due date rolled around we already had four boys between us and one surprise left to come. When my son was born, I remember FaceTiming them from the delivery room and hearing their screams of joy that we were five for five. Five beautiful, healthy, happy sons born to four mothers who would now be linked forever. So, the boys of summer began their journey together, and slowly I realized that I had not one son, but five.
In those early weeks and months, as my son grew alongside his friends, something shifted within me. I had loved my friends' sons before giving birth to my own, of course I had, because I had loved my friends. But now, I was a mother and with that came a wild ability to love in an entirely different way, an infinite way. I had love to spare, boundless love. Why not put it to use? Why not love all of our boys without boundaries or preamble, love them simply because I am a mother and they are a child? I’m talking about this as if it was a choice – it wasn’t. The love, pride, and joy I felt for my son washed over me in waves and spilled over onto our boys of summer. How could I not love these boys as fiercely as my own? It was easy. It was freeing. It’s natural to love your child, to be proud of them, to mother them – so why not love and be proud of your friends' kids? Why not mother them? Love isn’t finite. It’s ever growing.
If only my son knows he can come to me for comfort and guidance, then I have failed as his mother. What example am I setting for my son if the message he hears from me is "only you matter"?
And so as our boys of summer grow, my love grows alongside them. I love them in their own right, as their own beings. When they need to be scooped up and cuddled, I scoop. I cuddle. When they learn something new, I celebrate them and let them know how proud I am of them. When they do something hilarious, I laugh and fall in love with them all over again. Is it all going to be roses and giggles forever? No. Our little ones are already closer to toddlers than babies, and with that comes new challenges and new opportunities to show them support and love. When they need to be taught a lesson, I take cues from my friends and I do what I can to help to teach. When they are doing something wrong, I correct. When they need mothering, I mother. And I expect the same from my friends. It’s not overreaching, it’s building confident kids with healthy boundaries who understand that society operates via mutual respect and goodwill. More simply put, we cannot do this alone. There is no downside to loving a child that isn’t your own, to teaching that child and engaging with them in a positive way. Children are not to be raised in a vacuum. If only my son knows he can come to me for help and for guidance, then I have failed as his mother. So too, if my son thinks he can come to only me for help and guidance, then my friends have failed us both. Loving each other and our children, supporting each other in parenthood is essential because we need each other to successfully raise the next generation. What example am I setting for my son if the message he hears from me is “only you matter”?
It's a wonderful privilege to love a child who is not your own, or rather, to realize that every child is your own.
As our sons get older, I know that other children will enter our lives – many already have – who I will love. It’s a wonderful privilege to love a child who is not your own, or rather, to realize that every child is your own. We belong to one another and that’s a responsibility that takes time and patience to shoulder. But my boys of summer will forever hold a piece of my heart for teaching me about the boundless possibilities of love. For teaching me to embrace others fully. For teaching me that we are in this together. For teaching me that I am a mother who mothers.