I was texting my best friend the other day and we were talking about how long yet short it’s been since our high school graduation. She was congratulating me on my oldest daughter’s valedictorian honors and I asked her if she had any pointers for her for her speech. 

She told me to tell her, “Get a friend to agree to give you standing ovation after. Takes the pressure off.” 

Knowing that this was our plan after Amy’s speech made me laugh. She had a fear of public speaking and so our other friend Alyson and I decided that no matter what, no matter how good or bad Amy’s speech went, we’d start the standing ovation.

And we did. 

For the record, her speech deserved a “standing o.” She was a brilliant writer, then and now, so really, it was no big deal. She earned it.

But if someone had told me back then that in 24 years or so I’d be getting ready to start a second standing ovation at my daughter’s graduation I don’t know what I would have thought.

My inner dialogue probably would have gone something like this, “Wait, I’m 9th in my class, but my daughter’s gonna be valedictorian? Let me get this straight. All those speeches I practiced in the shower getting ready for my own big moment are never gonna happen, but my baby girl’s gonna speak in front of hundreds of people and give me a shout out?”

Yep, that’s life. Your kids have a way of fulfilling your dreams for you, don’t they? It’s almost like God said to me, “Okay, Em. I know how much you’ve always wanted to sing, so I’m gonna give your second child the voice of an angel and the hands of a musician. Enjoy it. Your oldest will be an academic and athletic all-star. Crazy talented. Go figure. And for fun, your youngest will be a one-man comedy show with an incredible sense of comic timing and ability to do spot-on impressions of everyone he’s ever met — you’re welcome.”

Really, everything I’ve ever wanted to be skipped me and matriculated into them. 

What are the odds, right?

When people used to tell me “Motherhood is the best thing that ever happened to me,” I used to feel kinda insulted for their husbands. Like, come on girl. The dude’s standing right there and you’re gonna tell me the best thing that ever happened to you was your kids?

Aren’t you at least gonna give him an honorable mention or something?

But I get it now. All those women weren’t trying to diss their old man or anything, at least not that I know of. Most of those moms are still married and happy and, you know, enjoying retirement together in their clean, empty nests as far as I can tell. 

I think everybody says motherhood is the best thing that happened to them because it just is.

How? How can birthing watermelons out of something the size of a lemon be the best thing a girl’s got to look forward to? How can all those sleepless nights, nursing, worrying, bathing, rocking, soothing, reading, singing, playing, crying, schlepping your child everywhere, how can this be the penultimate life experience? 

Who would’ve thought that taking care of someone else 24/7 would actually teach you the meaning of life, am I right? Come to think of it, your mom would have thought it. In fact, she told you this all those long years ago when you graduated high school. She told you that she loved you and that no matter what, she was going to keep on loving you and being there for you wherever you were, however you were living, whoever you were living with.

Your mom had your back and she’s had it ever since you were born and here you are looking at your own kids and you know there’s nothing you wouldn’t do to be the same mom to them.

And that’s the beauty of motherhood, isn’t it? This all-encompassing love that you just never knew existed before, because sure, you love your partner. And yes, if they needed a kidney you’d get tested. You’d want to be the donor. I’d hop in front of a bullet if it were humanly possible to take one for my husband.

Obviously, I’m hoping it doesn’t come to this, but you get the idea. 

He’s everything to me too. He’s just a different kind of everything. He’s the kind of everything that I depend on and need to get through the day. But my kids are my dreams. They’re the kind of everything that I’m living tomorrow for, you know what I mean? My husband is my past and present and every breath, and my children are my present and future, my next breaths. 

So, today, on the eve of Mother’s Day, I want to say thank you to my mom for telling me years and years ago what I tell my children today.

You don’t need to get me a present. You don’t need to do anything special for me. You are my greatest gift. Today, tomorrow, always.