It wasn't a particularly special day, just some random Tuesday that it was too hot to play outside without some form of water splashing on you. I'd packed our standard lunch of Mickey Mouse shaped PB and J's, and we headed off to our neighborhood splash pad.
I got out of my van with two littles following closely behind, chatting away about butterflies and running on slippery grass. Well, mostly Will chatted and Ruby agreed in giggles and snorts. I walked toward the small piece of real estate I repeatedly claim on our frequent visits to this mecca of screaming and laughing adolescents. As I did, the thought occurred to me that my pack was pretty light and my caravan traveled pretty smoothly as we weaved our way in and around strollers, car seats, and bumbos brought by my fellow pilgrims searching for a place to cool their overheated babes.
Upon reaching my destination, my kids went full force into the fray, and I landed on a giant towel on the warm grass. I opened my book and began my usual routine of reading a page, scan where the kids are, read a page, scan for danger, and so on. Upon my third or fourth scan, after locating my offspring, I started to notice the mamas in the mix. They were darting here and there, grabbing tiny humans from harm or coaxing then to engage with the water, they were working hard for those littles. I smiled and watched them, remembering all the playdates here in years passed. Gone are the days when I wore a bathing suit under my clothes and usually left soggy and exhausted from trying to convince my son that splash pads are, in fact, fun and not the terrifying hellscape that he perceived. I remember having to hover behind Ruby wherever she went to keep her from injuring herself on pretty much anything and everything. I remember what it was like to pack too much stuff in my bag because I needed to be prepared for the apocalypse and subsequent blowouts and wardrobe malfunctions. When I had to also have a stroller and a baby carrier and 5 different types of diaper rash cream. But this summer, the sun rose on a different life for me, very different from how it looked just a short year ago.
My kids had grabbed each other by the hand and run off together playing in the water, laughing in the heat, giggling at the specks of water that pepper their noses. I'm smiling watching all of this unfold and enjoying this new normal. How lovely it is to be a mom. Whether you are new to the game or, like me, you've been doing it for a couple of years. Four years to be exact. Nothing close to some moms out there, pulling 6, 8, 10, or 15 years.
However long or short, it dawns on me that I no longer fall into the category of "new mom." Even if I was to have another baby, I've weathered the storms. I'm just a mom. There isn't anything wrong with this, I'm not even a little sad about it either. It just is one of those things that sneaks up on you. For the longest time I was the new mom, just guessing and hoping and feeling my way through motherhood. Like a multitude before me and the multitude after, I was just faking it until it started to make sense. But I missed when it changed from faking it to actually making a little bit of sense.
Emphasis on the word little.
It isn't a daunting identity to hold, just mom. Unlike the term "new mom" which is said in a sweet and often patronizing tone, being just a mom is kind of freeing. It gives me permission to just parent my kids, and it gives me strength. The gradual build of muscle and thickening of skin that is mom-hood. Muscles that have shlepped kids in and out of car seats for 4 years that have bent over baths for that long, and dragged a wild animal child kicking and screaming from the toy aisle of Target. Skin thick from the judgment and the mom shaming endured. Gradually, it built. And it's only been 4 years. I look forward to joining the ranks of moms with much higher year counts; gradually of course.
My kids rejoined me after a while on my little plot of grass. They tucked into their sandwiches and were trading grapes back and forth, watching others play and warming their dripping bodies in the incubating sunshine. The presence of their little bodies, smiling and jabbering amongst the peals of laughter and crash of water hitting the cement, reminded me that it's not really about being just a mom, or a new mom.
It's only about being their mom.
My gradual change is not attributed to anything I did or anything profound I've read or heard. My motherhood is shaped by these two people. My soft hands made rough on their bike rides and hikes, my weak arms strong by lifting their little bodies. My worn and saggy body scarred from their difficult births. And because of these two human people, I am worn thin and scarred and bruised and battered and strong and happy and steadfast and confident.
I'm just mom, just mom.
Mom, who can usually tell a fever from across the room.
Mom, who can decipher a pain cry versus a hurt feeling cry from the other side of the house.
Mom, who can make 2 PB&J's in 2 minutes with one kid crying at the table and the other wrapped around my leg.
Mom, who can smell an ear infection.
Mom, who can tame unruly hair with a spray bottle and a comb, who can cut 20 tiny nails without fear, brush 60 teeth 2 twice a day, and knows the best dance party songs.
I am Will and Ruby's mom.
I thought on all of this from where I sat at the splash pad. I thought of all the fears and anxiety I had when they were born. I thought about all the stuff I felt I needed, I thought of how bent out of shape I would get if they lost their cool in public, or when we stayed out past nap/bedtime. Things are different now, I am different now. Not because I know better, but because I came through the storm that each mom is asked to weather; being a new mom.
I closed my book and took a long drag of the fresh summer air and accepted my new classification. I silently said a prayer for all the new moms within my eye line, that they would be granted warrior woman ninja strength until the day when they were free to be just mom.
Then, I yelled for Ruby to stop climbing the water features.
And I did all of this from the safety of my towel on the grass. I'm not a new mom, I'm not even just a mom.
Because to the two that matter, I’m just mom. Nothing Fancy.