When it was time for cake and ice cream following my eight-year-old son’s recent birthday dinner, I donned a pair of sunglasses. My husband and kids knew exactly why I went for the eye cover. It was to spare my dignity.
You see, our family has a birthday tradition of taking turns around the table, sharing things we especially love and appreciate about the person celebrating a birthday. Without fail, every time we do this, when I listen to my children compliment, encourage, and appreciate one another, I turn into a sobbing puddle of mush.
So I’m a crier. I won’t try to deny it. I’m not so much of a crier about personally disappointing or sad things, mind you. I think even my husband would admit that I am not the kind of woman who quickly turns to tears in a crisis or during an argument. I’m at least a little bit tough that way.
But I sure do make up for my tough side when it comes to sentimental things. Like movies, for example.
It’s a Wonderful Life? Heaps of sobbing.
The Notebook? Mascara mayhem.
Marley and Me? My tear ducts might never recover.
My family has grown accustomed to the fact that at birthday parties, New Year’s celebrations, and in the face of any especially sweet gesture of love or kindness, I dissolve instantly into a sloppy, sobbing mess.
“Mama’s crying again!” Some snicker and some sigh. But don’t they see? I only sob because I care.
Take for example, the biannual, emotionally wrenching task of cleaning out closets and switching out my family’s wardrobes when the seasons change.
This time of year, the kids’ dresser drawers and closets must be emptied of t-shirts, swimsuits, shorts, and sun dresses and filled with corduroys, sweaters, jeans, long skirts, and thick, woolly socks.
Entire wardrobe changes times eight growing bodies. I hate this job. I dread this job. I whine about this job every year, and still no one offers to relieve me of the obligation.
The very thought of having to face the clothing crisis usually makes me desperate. I have considered outfitting my children in paper pants to avoid it. Once, I even tried to convince the kids that tank tops and flip flops were appropriate attire for soccer practice in 40-degree temperatures, but they didn’t go for it.
The worst part isn’t the work of sorting and storing clothes, though. The worst part is the crying. I can’t be the only mom who finds the job of sorting through clothing not only time consuming but also emotionally exhausting.
It goes like this: I hold up a tiny pair of shorts, a stained onesie, or a faded pair of jeans, and suddenly I am there. I am holding that baby, I am watching that boy, I am hugging that tiny girl, who wore those shorts, who stained that shirt, who tore that pair of jeans.
I stuff the “to give away” bags while looking away to avoid over-examining their contents. I clutch tiny shirts to my chest and catch my breath. I fold and sigh. I sort and bite my quivering lip.
This is so inefficient.
I won’t even try to fight it, though. I think it’s an important calling that we mothers have. We are our family’s folders and the sorters, but we are our family’s feel-ers too. Maybe we notice more than we should. We might pay attention to all the tiny details. We might blubber at birthdays, remember every blessed thing, and love so much it embarrasses the kids.
I won’t apologize for that.
Only a mother could feel such intense affection, such deep love for her family, that she’ll break down sobbing while sitting in a pile of baseball cleats and Hello Kitty t-shirts in the back of a bedroom closet. Who else is going to do that for you?
If you ask me, our jaded world could use a little extra heartfelt love and emotion. Tears are a tangible sign of the intensity of our affection. And doesn’t every family deserve as much?