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Amy Pybus: Roar of a different sort of tiger mom

A morning water aerobics class at the JFK Middle School pool in 2007. School budget cuts now call for closing the pool on weekends.

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO A morning water aerobics class at the JFK Middle School pool in 2007. School budget cuts now call for closing the pool on weekends. Purchase photo reprints »

I’m not just talking about becoming ever more desperately addicted to coffee and never having time to put on makeup. I’m talking about changes at my core and ways I never would have grown if I didn’t have kids. I am stronger, more convicted in my beliefs and willing (maybe for the first time) to stand up for them.

I don’t think this comes from passing age 40 either, though it helps. I could have continued to be wishy-washy and sweet for the rest of my life if I hadn’t had kids. I recently told one of my friends that you can say or do anything to me and I’ll take it. But if you mess with my kids I will come after you.

I guess my son wasn’t lying in the Mother’s Day poem he wrote where he called me “as strong as a tiger.” I would never, ever think of myself that way, but if he sees that in me, I’ll take it.

When you’re a mother, you have to behave all the time. You have to live the way a good and healthy person should live, so your children can learn how to from you. It would be so much easier to walk away and hide from so many difficult challenges we face every day, but when you are setting an example for someone else, you have to be a grown-up and handle it the right way. Knowing that someone is watching or listening is often what pushes me toward being my best. I can handle a lot of things, but never my sons thinking of me as a fraud.

I’ll always remember a documentary I once saw by Richard Attenborough about Princess Diana. He said she never lacked the skills to be a public figure, but didn’t at first have confidence and self-esteem. It was when she had her children that she found the strength to be the powerful woman she became. She fought for her children, so hard that even after she passed away they continued to live the way she wanted them to. Even the big bad English monarchy couldn’t deny her wishes. She changed the world because she had children she needed to fight for.

We mothers are out there changing the world every day. I think we deserve more than one Mother’s Day. Such as it is, we get one beautiful day in spring and it is so delightful — being swarmed with extra love and hugs and gifts. The other day on a walk my son touched my back the way an older man would do. Rather than being haunted by the prospect of him growing up, I thought, someday you’ll be a man, but I hope we will always have these moments.

In the past, “treating myself” on Mother’s Day meant getting away, taking a trip or having time for myself. This year, treating myself will mean cheering my heart out on the sidelines of soccer games. Hopefully snuggling on the couch and watching a show or, if they insist, a baseball game. Maybe going for a hike or getting ice cream and laughing our heads off with all the bad boy jokes they make. Settling down at the end of the night to read some Harry Potter and grabbing a little more blanket time, as much as I can.

I will also take a few minutes to pray for other mothers, especially those who are suffering. I will think about how much we actually can make a difference, and reflect on what part I play in that.

Now more than ever I owe a debt to make things better. I know that there are few creatures on earth stronger and more powerful than a mother. My kids made me this way, and I won’t let them down.

Amy Pybus of Easthampton writes on family life issues in a column that appears on the second Thursday of the month. She can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com and blogs at www.sittingonthebaby.com.

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