I heard it at least once a day when my twins were young, “You must have your hands full! I could never do what you are doing.”
Throughout my son’s illness with cancer and following his death, I heard, “I could never handle what you are going through. You are so strong.”
Even during a quick errand to the grocery store with my four sons, I hear, “You are one busy mama. You must be tired with all those boys.”
I hear things all the time.
Yes, I have my hands full.
Yes, I’m tired.
Yes, I’m busy.
Yes, I handled it.
And yes, I’m strong.
Some of what motherhood is to me I chose for myself. I chose to have lots of babies in rapid succession. It’s what I wanted. I even secretly prayed for twins.
I’ve never been bored—not one day—as a mother. And I love it. I love that my hands are full. “Full of love!” is what I tell the passers-by who comment.
I did not choose to have all boys. Loud, messy, boisterous, moving like a high speed train through a miniature city, rumbling and shaking everything in its path.
If I could have chosen calm, quiet, delightful children I would have.
But then again, I might have been bored.
I did not choose the cancer that stole my son.
I did not choose to cut his life short at age six. To leave our family void of his ever-present smile, his infectious laugh, and his mile-a-minute energy. I would never have chosen for his brothers to watch him fade away before their very eyes and wake up one day without him by their sides—to live a life without their oldest brother, their idol, their friend.
I did choose to be with him through every radiation session, every chemotherapy infusion, and every time the vomit rose in his throat and left him shivering. I did choose to hold him as he was dying, struggling through every last breath.
Yes, it was hard.
Yes, I had to be strong.
“But you would do it, too,” I always say. “You would do it, too, because it’s your child.” And people nod and say a silent prayer that it will never BE their child.
Love makes us stronger. Being a parent makes us juggle the overflow in our hands with the ease of an artist. Having a family makes us accept the activity of daily life as situation normal.
We are doing it. We are strong. We have our hands full. We’re tired and busy and crazed.
But we’re handling it. And we are better parents for it.