After three daughters, it was only natural that our youngest son should have four mothers. I just wasn’t expecting how tight those sibling-mommy bonds could be.
When one of them forgot to shut the stair gate, I heard the thud of him hitting each step like it was my own body falling. I was the fourth mommy at the scene, running up from the bottom while the other three ran down from the top. I had to fight my way through the crowd to pull his screaming warmth into my jealous arms.
“I’m the mommy,” I foolishly reminded my tear faced daughters. Their horrified and guilty faces attested to heart-stirring preparations for their own motherhood one day. I cradled him and took him away, savoring the way he relaxed against my neck, feeling him gulp air, listening to the quieting of his heart.
“But Mommy,” my middle daughter who couldn’t stop touching him said, “I just love him so much.”
“Of course, you do,” I whispered.
After nap was a contest of who would get him first, because whoever picked him up belonged to him until the queen mother changed his diaper. That was all mine.
When it was time to start pre-school, I assured other mothers of its joys.
“But he’s your last, won’t it be hard?”
“I’m looking forward to it,” I said with confidence.
His sisters picked his clothes and told him with pride how much fun it would be. But on that day, as they each backed out of the car to enter three different new schools, they left with anxious eyes fixed on their little brother buckled in his seat.
“You are going to love it.”
“Have fun Justin, it’s gonna be great.”
“Tell me all about it when I get home.”
Their possessive hearts beat more concern about his unknown than their own.
I smiled at the irony of their nervous-leaving and my brash-giving.
But when I turned to leave him in that classroom with little green tables and little red chairs, his eyes raised to mine like a puppy about to be given away. My spirit ran to him and scooped him into my arms while my body walked resolutely to the car. I slid in and planted my face on the wheel of the car where I sobbed like the baby who fell down the stairs.
In Junior-High he and some friends filled our tub with blue Gatorade given away at the end of a sports fair. They donned swimsuits and tried to turn blue. Watching them soak like kings in their own hot tub of bubbly, I laughed, knowing of course he would find fun in a tub of Gatorade.
I watched him anxiously when our youngest daughter married. I saw his wariness toward the groom, his hesitation and evaluation. But, he stood tall, a young groomsman playing his part until it was over and we filed to the back. A tap on my shoulder from a friend directed me to where he stood alone. Tears etched rivulets off his cheeks and dropped onto his tux, while he watched his sister kiss her husband.
He grew and learned to drive. I observed his sisters guide him through the girlfriends and broken hearts. He toyed with his future and talked about the military. He spent hours on the phone talking out his dreams with sibling-mommies who had families of their own, and I trusted them. I held my tongue while he flipped through life choices like paging through a rolodex, my heart dipping and soaring like a rollercoaster. He settled on aviation. Of course he would.
When a two-seater hunk of metal flew above me I cheered with fingernails digging deep into my fists. With one eye shut, I watched from below, my son in the pilot seat, his big sis next to him. And eventually when he literally flew far from home, I reminded myself that was exactly what I’d raised him to do.
And one day, when the worst of the worst happened, he sat at the bedside of his next-in-line sister, amid the beeps and whines of hospital machines, I saw the man he had become. I saw the gentle care that called her back from the blackest jaws of illness. I saw the strength of decision-making when we needed it most and wise thoughtful counsel. I watched him nurture and love, embracing the circle, becoming steady in the face of our weakness and fear.
Not long after, I was out walking when his call lit my cell. “I met a girl,” he said. I knew how much it meant that not only mom approved, but also those three other women that loved him from the roots of their hearts.
And the vote was unanimous.
A few months later his father and I waited in a room sweet with flowers. Tall, lean and handsome he strode in, a smile on his face and a radiant bride on his arm. Gratitude uncoiled my heart’s grip and a terrible tightness in my throat relaxed. He kissed me on the cheek and buried me in his chest, my ear pressed once more against the beating of his heart. With my head pressed into him, I saw the watery figures of three sibling-mommies lined up for their piece of him.
Of course they would. I stretched out my arm and they came.
Sylvia Schroeder serves as Women’s Care Coordinator at a non-profit, Avant Ministries. She and her husband and have four children, all grown and married and they are expecting their 13th grandchild. Her blog is When the House is Quiet; She contributes to Just18Summers (a parenting blog), ThisGloriousTable and Fox New’s ToddStarnes devotions. Her articles have appeared in various magazines, among them JustBetweenUs, Summer 2017; and the Lookout Magazine, March 2017. Standard, Seek and Power for Living have accepted pieces yet to be published this year.