Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

May 10, 2013

Some of the lessons of motherhood

By Jill Pertler
The Journal Express

---- — I’ve been on the job for more than 21 years, without a day off for longevity, illness, endurance or good behavior. I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t want a day off. Not a whole day, anyway. Although I do appreciate 10 minutes under a hot shower within the solitary confines of my bathroom each morning.

If you’re a newbie to the profession, you might feel tired. Heck, I’m absolutely certain you are tired. Don’t worry. (There will be plenty of things to worry about during the next 18 years, believe me.) You’ll get used to the brain fog – even learn to use it to your advantage. Besides, sleep is over-rated. It’s one of the lessons motherhood has taught me.

There’s more. Motherhood is practically a classroom, and some of the things learned within its confines are even more exciting than sleeping through the night. Like one concept I call the time conundrum.

Back when I was a rookie mom, friends, family and strangers at the grocery store predicted the next 18 years would zoom by faster than warp speed. I nodded my sleep-deprived head, tried not to yawn and failed to believe them. Other mothers fall into the same trap.

Here’s why: When you are in the throes of colic, or potty training, or learning to ride a bike, or first day of kindergarten, or getting braces on crooked teeth, or taking a driving test, or going to prom, or moving into the dorm, it’s hard to imagine anything beyond your current circumstance. Until the event at hand ends, and another consumes you faster than you can say, “Grab the car seat,” and so on until you turn the calendar to another year filled with new adventures and milestones and before you can say, “Here are the car keys,” your chubby toddler has become a gangly 16-year-old. Warp speed – a mystical, magical and practically supernatural reality for moms, hopefully not teenage drivers.

The time conundrum – whereby the years zip by speedy quick – logically brings us to our third lesson: Don’t sweat the small stuff. And fourth: Ninety-nine percent of it is small stuff.

I kept fastidious track of when my kids learned to walk. The earlier the better! Look at the little guy go! He’s got to be advanced for his age! My children now range from 11 to 21 and they all walk just fine. I’d be willing to bet a nickel no one could examine their gaits and determine who walked at nine months and who at 13. To tell the truth, I can’t remember myself.

A bad grade in math, making (or not making) the team, messing up at a piano recital, stumbling in the race, squabbles with friends – they all seem important in the moment. But in the big picture, they are but a blip. While I understand this concept, I find it difficult to implement because as mothers we may be able to get by with less sleep, but when it comes to emotions – ours multiply. Lesson five: Motherhood changes you in ways you’d never expect.

I remember the first time I cried because of a TV commercial. My daughter was a newborn and I didn’t know what hit me. In the midst of an actress promoting a product – ketchup, if I’m not mistaken – I felt a surge in my chest and tears running down my cheeks. You can only imagine how I react when one of my kids is bleeding or fails the test or is the last to be picked for the team.

They invented the term, “basket case” for a reason.

I know an enlightened mother sucks it up and ignores the small stuff. I also realize this is practically impossible in real life. Some day I hope to be an enlightened mother. For now, pass me the Kleenex.

I entered motherhood prepared to teach my kids important lessons about things like being kind, the golden rule, respecting others, being on time, flushing and never leaving chewed gum under your chair. I anticipated molding and changing them for the better, never expecting they’d do the same to me. But they did. And I’m glad. In fact, if someone offered me the chance to go back and do it all over, I probably would. Then again, maybe that’s the brain fog talking.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.