Updated: Jan 26
I've been a mother since the day I was born.
I am a mother. I always have been. From the moment I was born.
I have a daughter, yes. A life that has deepened my understanding of my own pure motherhood. But through her, I've riffled through the drawers of my own motherhood, recognizing the influence of both being mothered by others, and how I show up as a mother to others.
I was first a sister mother; letting the example my own mother gave bathe me in the ways and traditions of caring for another, letting my close siblings be the both the beneficiaries and the subjects of my learning. I will never know what it's like to not care for another. Even if that care is misdirected. I have always loved with an understanding that my love has the power to build or break the heart of another person. A lesson unavoidable, thrust upon me, and also embraced fully and with a deep sense of responsibility.
There are nine of us. With the entrance and exit of many more through our house over the years. The first five (I call us the "originals"), were close in age and shared a phase of life in which we leaned heavily on one another, whether we liked it or not. Then when I was a teenager, we began fostering children, and through the nature of that loving and letting go, we adopted four more amazing people to join the herd (I call them the re-runs.) I was old enough to be their mother, but I was not. I held all of them as infants, rocked them to sleep, changed their diapers, watched them grow. An early (and mild) introduction to the push and pull of parenting. My parents did most of the work, of course. But I was gifted the responsibility of a little bit of mothood early on. Perhaps even when I was a smaller child. My parents recognized early that I had the capacity for it and didn't deny me the exploration or experience of discovering the kind of sister mother I wanted to be.
Being a sister mother is one of the great honors of my life and has etched out the shape of me. From every bossy moment directing the show as a child, to every cradled baby I held as I grew older, I always knew I loved being their sister mother. I love that 25 plus years later they call me in the middle of the night for advice. I love that I can be proud of their accomplishments, both acknowledging their unique presence in the world and being tied to it as well. In return, however, I also hold the weight of their grief, the sting of their anger, and the guilt of their hardship.
As a sister mother, I have an easier time of letting go of the difficult things, because I am their sister first. That's the beauty of it. And we are alike in ways unimaginable. Our ties are deeper than just the shape of our forehead or the color of our eyes. We shared and continue to share a life in real time. My emotions reflect that, as well. If I love them, I love myself. If I'm angry at them, I'm angry at myself.
Because I'm a Sister Mother, the weight of motherhood has never been absent. Sometimes it is a heavy blanket that caccons me and provides a feeling of warmth. Other times, well...other times it's something entirely different. Regardless, it continues to be a daily gift.
We are part of our siblings lives longer than any other relationship we hold in our lifetime. Our shared and unshared memories become our life story. They provide me with perspective on who I am and reflect the beauty of our experience together. For that I am eternally grateful.