In my seventeen years of being a mom, I’ve had my share of tough questions.
The ones that induce the reddest blushes have to do with sex.
What is sex? Do you and daddy have sex? When do you have sex? These queries are the tip of the iceberg in a long line of questions from my three kids that I’ve fielded over the years. They’re usually asked while we are all at the dinner table and my mouth is full of tea or pasta.
I will never, ever, forget the time our eldest child needed the complete, don’t-hold-anything-back, tell-me-right-now, explanation of sex.
We had already dealt with the basics of where babies came from. I always answered every question that was brought to me. But every time we would get to the nitty gritty part, Tom would change the subject.
This day was different. He wanted the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.
Of course he asked for it while my dad was visiting. I will spare you the details of our conversation, but let’s just say that all these years later, I still haven’t completely recovered from having to explain ejaculation to my son IN FRONT of my father.
I give my dad extra points for remaining very calm and then patting me on the back for a job well done.
Some of the toughest questions I have had to answer have been about our beautiful 14-year-old daughter. Lizzy is beloved by her two brothers, but her brain disorder still has no name and stumps some of the top medical professionals in the world. How do I answer questions about what her future will be when I don’t know?
Being a mom means being prepared for anything. I get that. I am also fairly proud of my ability to appear calm and unfazed even when I’m laughing or dying inside.
But I have to admit that I was caught off guard a few years ago when my then eight-year-old son, Peter, asked me if he really had to go to heaven one day, and if he did, could our whole family go at the same time.
“Can I at least go with Grandpa Warren?”
My beloved Aunt Fran was in the last stages of the illness that would take her life a few weeks later. Peter loved Fran and he was really struggling with what it meant that she was dying.
What is heaven? Where is heaven? Can we all go at the same time?
Peter asked these questions as I was serving dinner.
I did my best to reassure him and let him know I believed heaven was a beautiful, peaceful place where we would be with God and all our loved ones that went before us. I stressed the fact that I felt it was a place where there was no pain or sadness.
I let him know that I loved the idea that we would all be together and that even if we didn’t all go at the same time, I believed we would ultimately be reunited with one another.
His face relaxed and he smiled as he asked for a hug.
I was relieved to know that my hugs still held their magical power.
It occurred to me that day that I am the filter that my children see the world through. Whether they are sad, scared, happy, or not feeling well, I am the one that they come to.
They adore their father. They love their grandparents, but I have been their constant from the day they each took their first breaths.
I am home.
All at once, I felt grateful, humbled, and a little scared to be that important to not one, but three of the sweetest people on earth.
Motherhood is a strange, strange job. The hours are crazy, the working conditions are not always optimal, and the people that we work for can sometimes seem very demanding. I don’t always feel up to the job. Yet, on that day I was once again reminded that it is not so much what I do that means the most to my children. It is that I am there to do it. I may not be my ideal of the perfect mother, but I am theirs.
This piece was previously published on the Dishwasher, August 27, 2014, under the title, Facing the Tough Questions. It has been slightly edited.