Friday, March 7, 2014

Cold Coffee

When I was young, my mom's coffee used to live in the microwave.

I'm about 95% sure she didn't actually make it in the microwave, because I remember the predawn beeping that signaled the arrival of morning fuel. Obviously, this wasn't my beverage of choice, so I turned my back toward the sound of her slipping on her robe and walking down the hallway.

When I finally pulled myself out of bed to prepare for yet another day at school, I'd walk into the kitchen to her fully dressed, makeup in place, and ready to go. My breakfast would be sitting on the table {yeah, she set the bar high} and she'd be packing lunches or paying bills or asking my brother if his homework was done. Coffee was missing from the pot, but there was no mug in sight. It was busy turning on the plate to the tune of the microwave's hum. Ten seconds there, and a BEEP while she helped me find my missing shoe. Twenty seconds here, and a BEEP while she scraped cinnamon toast residue and loaded the dishwasher. Five more, and a BEEP while she signed agenda books and checked her planner. A quick pour into her trusty travel mug and she sipped cold coffee all the way to school.

I remember noticing that the coffee spent most of its life in the microwave and thinking she was crazy. Why did she let it sit there for the hour and a half it took to get herself and her children ready? Why didn't she just stop and drink it? Why did she push herself so hard just to push us?

Ohhh. I get it now.

This memory came to mind the other day, as I was scrambling to get three kids up, ready, and into the car. Before lifting my whining daughter from the crib, I poured the water for my coffee, popped in my favorite K-cup, and hit BREW. I mixed the formula, changed a diaper, and stopped at the boys' room to open shades before sitting down to feed the baby. Once the bottle was drained, two zombies made their way into the living room with requests for milk, frosted flakes, waffles, juice, and hot dogs. Looking up at the clock and subtracting minutes, I made that happen {save the hot dogs}, and laid out clothes. After my first plea for the boys to eat quickly, I rushed into my own room to splash my face, brush my teeth, and make myself look semi-presentable. Another plea to eat, and a warning of "five minutes until getting dressed" and I smelled something interesting. Diaper Change #2. Both bedheads were tamed, and mine was thrown into a pony tail. The car was started, and I put Owen's shoes on for the third time. I loaded Nora, made Nathan come back inside to get his backpack, and I put Owen {sans shoes} in the car. I ran back inside to grab my bag and turn off the television. That's when I saw it.

My coffee.

Sitting in my cup, cold and forgotten. At that exact moment, I became my mother. If you know her, you know this was a good thing. I know why my mom's coffee lived in the microwave. She was so busy taking care of us that she forgot about herself.

But that was just the part that I saw.

I bet you $5 she downed two cups standing over the sink while I took a shower and picked out my pre-teen wardrobe. From my point of view, she was Saint Mom, a woman who sacrificed for her children. While that is true, it wasn't her entire life. To stretch a metaphor, it's important to put the proverbial oxygen mask on yourself before assisting the children seated near you. Moms can run on cold coffee, but sometimes we need to sit down, breathe in the aroma and enjoy a piping hot cup.

We all struggle to find that balance, but we should. I know she couldn't have performed her Super Mom duties without taking care of herself first, and it's high time I jump on that train. It's taken me almost 30 years, but here I am, realizing the hope of every five-year-old, the fear of every teenager, and the perceived impossibility of every new parent. I'm becoming my mother, and, honestly, there's no one else I'd rather be.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

I can always remember my mom being the last one sitting at the dinner table after we had all finished our food and moved on to other things. I just never understood "why". These days my kids are nearly done with dinner before I ever get my plate made and sit down with them. Turning into our mothers isn't that bad of a thing!