“Mommy Tried, Mommy Did It” — What Got Me Through 2020

Starting several months ago, every time I achieved a rather difficult toddler task I was asked to do — draw a purple frog on a red horse next to Cookie Monster as a Baby Shark … or glue this sliver of a picture back onto a puzzle piece so that no one knows that it was ripped off by tiny fingers — my little guy would begin clapping and say, “Mommy tried, Mommy did it.” This is now a regular scene. Of course, this is the kind of affirmation that he receives and all children need in order to grow into confident human beings. But it ends up that it is also the affirmation that I — and all of us parents — needed this year, as well. Sometimes it’s: “Mommy tried, Mommy fixed it.” If only I really could magically fix it all.

This year rocked us. Collectively, it was a year of loss and anxiety, a year of uncertainty and challenges … devastation for many, change for us all. Change in our daily lives. Change in how we interact with others. There was a demand for social change that will hopefully help create a world that I want my child to know. A vote for a change in leadership (or any actual leadership for that matter) … because, as I already explained to my little one, leaders should be helpful and kind. I am hoping “helpful and kind” will be our collective focus after the past four years … and this one especially.

As I wrote on my birthday (the day I turned 40), this year we were forced to strip down our lives to the core of what really matters, to evaluate who we are and what is important, to free ourselves from the frivolous and focus on what we ultimately prioritize. As parents we are constantly making sure that our children are happy, healthy, getting what they need to grow physically and emotionally. And this year many of us had to make sure of this on a completely different level. I am certainly not an expert (aside from having the title of Mom), but I know that kids, no matter how young they are, intuitively feed off of our emotions. Staying upbeat and positive for them — while giving age-appropriate insights into and lessons about what is happening outside our doors (and, at times, within our walls) — isn’t always an easy or even possible task. In fact, it can be emotionally exhausting.

I, of course, know that I am extraordinarily lucky. There are so many parents grappling with difficult decisions and life-altering situations that I do not envy. I am lucky that in a year of collective darkness, I can say that motherhood has been a consistent light, a light that still makes time seemingly fly by, a bright light upon which to focus … and, honestly, what got me through 2020. I am lucky that my fun, energetic little guy is a sheer delight. But I am also lucky that he is only two — part of a generation that won’t really remember the pandemic as a disruption of daily life, even as life is surely disrupted.

As his mommy (who’s been home with him nearly every day since his birth), I am still his world … and he is certainly mine. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t in ways impacted by the changes in our lives. (No one’s children are sleeping well, right?! Right?! Please don’t answer this very tired mama.) But if he really remembers anything in the long run about this year, I hope it will be us singing and dancing and playing all day (often in pjs) … plopping his toy computer down next to Daddy while he works from home … turning two in his grandparents’ backyard (the hardest part of all was not seeing them at the start of the pandemic) … beginning school two mornings a week, which was a new experience, but not necessarily weird for him because masks are just de rigueur (they make us superheroes!) and taking our temperature is simply what we do. (I probably had a harder time leaving him, especially in this environment, for the first time.)

I am grateful that these memories — along with his cuddles and laughter, exponential growth and discoveries, and the infinite love that comes along with motherhood — are what I too will personally remember most about this year at home because, as I often say, his happiness is my daily success. It is a good day as a mom when there is at least one moment that I wish I could hold on to and make last forever … that I could bottle and open later to relive over and over … that stops me in my tracks, melts away any worry, and makes my heart swell. It happens every single day, multiple times. It has since day one.

Some moments are milestones. Some are simply those when my sweet boy grabs my face for a kiss or when I pause to watch him in amazement. (I often forget that he is only two.) Others are when he says exactly what I didn’t even know I needed to hear. The other day he looked at me as we strolled into our apartment after a short walk around the neighborhood, smiled, and said, “Happy to be home.” Still. After all these months spent, well, mainly at home. This made me think that Mommy tried, Mommy did it. We all did.

Photo by Hali Ryan Photography