Before my daughter put gas in her car today, I asked her to make note of how many miles were on the trip odometer. 262. In just over a week, the car has gone 262 miles. Couple that with perhaps another 250 miles that she has driven my car without me in it, and she's driven a little over 500 miles on her own. When she gets ready to leave where ever she has gone, she calls me and says she's on her way home. Each time that phone rings and I see her number, for a moment I panic that I might pick up the phone and hear her sobbing on the other end, "Mommy?"
In the last year, since she first got her learner's permit and then her full license, I have come to realize that the only way a mother survives the years of raising her children is to completely live in denial. Denial that every time you turn away someone might snatch them. Denial that every time they walk out the door, it might be the last time you see them. And we must be tough. Tough when they do something foolish and have to face the consequences. Tough when they are hurt and you can't let them see how terrified you are about that deep cut or that finger that is bent in an odd position.
Being a mother has required so much more of me than I initially thought. It's certainly not for cowards, although we come across our fair share of them. The ones who care more about being their child's friend than their parent. The ones who do science projects for them. The ones who refuse to believe that their child could do something wrong.
Recently, I saw the movie Soul Surfer about Bethany Hamilton, the teenaged surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. When I came home I asked Maddie, "How could you say that's one of your favorite movies? That was terrible!" And I told her, "If I stopped to think about the things that could happen to you every time you walk out that door, you'd never go anywhere!" I was actually sobbing about watching this family go through this terrible event. And my sweet daughter hugged me and assured me that she wasn't going to be eaten by a shark. I suspect she was mocking me, but I was grateful for the hug.
On Sunday, I will enjoy my 17th Mother's Day. In spite of the dangers that lurk behind every single corner, I honestly wouldn't change one moment of it. Being a mom has been the most joyful and rewarding "job" I've ever had. Being a mom has made me a better person. And most importantly, I have spent 17 years being the mother of a fantastic and smart and funny and beautiful girl. I have been blessed by God beyond my wildest imagination.