I knew things at my daughter’s dance recital a couple years ago that no one else in the audience knew.
I knew those things because moms know things about their children that others do not. We are the possessors of inside information. We are the keepers of back stories.
I knew what was going on in my daughter’s head and heart while she was waiting to do one specific acrobatic move that was a centerpiece of the opening number for the whole show. It was a move only she was doing—not that I would have noticed if 20 other girls had been doing it, because my eyes were glued on her while I tried not to breath too hard in case it might distract her.
Only we moms know exactly what went into our kids’ triumphs and defeats
I knew how nervous and worried she was. I knew she’d had trouble with that particular element. I knew it didn’t always work. I knew it often didn’t work, actually. I knew it hadn’t worked just the night before at dress rehearsal.
I knew that the space my daughter had available to hold her tricky pose and the slippery sleeves of her costume were not, either of them, helping her cause. I knew that falling off her elevated platform and injuring herself—with the rest of the recital yet to go—was a very real concern.
I knew what was supposed to happen. I knew what could happen, on both ends of the spectrum between disaster and delight. I knew how much my daughter wanted to nail that pose. I knew how hard she had worked to set herself up to be able to nail it.
No one else in the audience had this level of background information. Out in the darkened auditorium, I alone possessed the full package of knowledge. And because I alone possessed it, I alone fully understood the jubilant smile of triumph that lit up my daughter’s face after she’d nailed that one element…after all her hard work had paid off in exactly the way she’d wanted it to. I not only understood her smile, I matched it with my own.
I shared her triumph in the way you only can when you know what came before it. If she had fallen or not been able to get into the position in the first place, I would have shared her heartbreak in the way you only can when you know what came before that.
Moms know things about their children no one else knows. We know the unedited version of our children’s stories, because we were there when those stories were being written.
We moms hold our breath waiting for the good news and the bad
We watch from the parking lot while they strike up a conversation with a classmate, and because we know the rejections of the past, we know what a risk they’re taking, trying again.
We drop them off for an audition, and because we know this is the passion that’s getting them out of bed every morning, we check our phones by the minute, hoping desperately for a call-back text.
We hold our breath while the ball is in the air after they take a shot, and because we know how many hours they’ve spent shooting hoops in our driveway, trying to improve, we spend those interminable seconds thinking, “Please go in…please go in.”
We look on while they put their instrument to their lips, and because we know which note often squeaks, when it doesn’t squeak, we have to restrain ourselves from pumping our fists and yelling “YES!!” right in front of the judges.
We take our places in the stands while they cross a graduation stage, and because we know all the obstacles they had to overcome to earn the diploma they’re handed, we beam with both public and private pride.
When our kids take a step or get a grade or score a goal or make a friend or speak a line or play a song or dance a dance or accomplish a task, we know what came before it. We know the process behind the product. We see what happens in those moments and know what might have happened, whether it’s less or more than what does happen. We know what’s behind the look on their faces when they’re getting ready to do something, and we know what’s behind the look on their faces—whether jubilant triumph or barely controlled despair—after they’ve done it.
Being a mom in the know makes the joy sweeter, the agony more painful
This is both the burden and the blessing of motherhood. This is the price and the payoff. We know what others do not know about our children. We carry the breadth and width of this secret knowledge by ourselves. When it gets heavy, no one can really help us bear it. But we count it a privilege because we are only too glad to be able to do something—anything—to lift some of the weight off our children.
And we also count it a privilege to pay this price because it is our entry fee into an exclusive club that comes with one, unsurpassed membership benefit: the chance to see our children triumph and, while others applaud politely, to cheer with wild abandon.
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