I’m not sure if you have caught the Procter & Gamble “Thank You Mom” ad for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, but if you haven’t, and you either have a mother or are a mother, you will probably want to take 2 minutes and watch it (and if you are anything like me, and then watch it again, and again, and again)
It got me. These ads always get me. And I am never sure if they bring on the tears more because I am a Mom or because of my Mom, although without the analysis of a psychotherapist I am going to safely assess it is a solid combo of both identities.
The amount of times Moms (and Dads) in general pick their children back up, the amount of time they spend slumped over in that well-known parental position, is really unmeasurable. It’s uncomfortable, it’s exhausting, but we don’t stop because even though we may mutter how tired/annoyed/frustrated/exhausted we are under our breath, the switch of unrelenting support and love has been flipped, and somewhere along the way, we realize we are their first, and very likely, their most important fans.
With that in mind…Ellie had her first soccer class this weekend.
A close friend of mine gave Ellie a soccer ball, mini shin guards, a tiny dry weave sport shirt and a backpack for her birthday, and one day when we had a slight reprieve from the suffocating blanket of snow that has fallen over us, I took Ellie to the park with the ball. I am not quite sure how Ellie knew exactly what to do with the soccer ball, but she did, and she kicked it back and forth for over an hour with two boys a few years older than she.
It was then that I realized I needed to get over my desire to keep our weekends free of scheduled commitments, and have her test out her fancy feet.
When we arrived Ellie announced to me that she planned to be shy because she didn’t know anyone, and I told her that was totally fine, but she had to go stand with the rest of the kids on the little matte…and I made sure I was only 3 feet away to start. As soon as the kids started following the coaches instructions, Ellie joined right in, and began dribbling the ball up and down the court, making it into the net, and then upon doing so, immediately looking up to find my face.
As long as I live, I hope I never forget what that feels like.
And I thought, “Now I get it…now I understand how my parents spent all of those years at the field of my softball games, schlepping us here and there, waiting for me at the finish line of the NYC half-marathon in sweltering heat, etc, etc.”
They knew I would look up, and the first face I would need to see after hitting a triple/catching the pop-fly/crossing the finish line – is theirs. They knew the responsibility they had as my first fan. And now I do to.
Every time Ellie kicked the ball into the net, she would get her bearings, and look around until she spotted my face, and when she did she would jump up and down… and so would I, while clapping and yelling, “Yay Ellie!!!!!!! You DID IT!!!! Woooooohoooo!!!!!…Now go stand with the other kids.”
I cheered with reckless abandon, not immediately noticing when my shirt crept up and my post baby belly peeked out above my jeans (fellow Moms, you know that belly…the one that you think is flat until you bend over to dry your hair and you see this pouch of skin that is just…never…going…away…without surgery). Less than desirable stomach aside, I cheered wondering where this would take her…if I would be watching her in the summer Olympics 14 years from now…or if she would turn to art… or maybe an instrument instead…or if she would be consumed with the molecular biology of god only knows what…or if she would be playing softball and putting my skills to shame…
Here’s why those P&G commercials get us all…parents aren’t only the first fans, they are the safety net and the soft place to land. And knowing they will be there, come hell or high water, is where the courage to try comes from. Knowing that no matter what, there is that person there, to wipe your tears, clean you up, pat you on the butt and wait for the chance to cheer again – all the while knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt you will deliver a reason to cheer again – even when you are filled with doubt – is the reason that our parents are both a soft place to land and a firm foundation. And without them, the triumphs would not only be that much more difficult, they would not be nearly as powerful.