Days Like This

She said it with her expressions. The warmest of hugs. Never with an "I told you so," but always with forgiveness. Before I ever knew I was going to be a mother of four, she gave me my first glimpse of what it would be like to be a mama.
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Mama said there will be days like this.

She said it with her expressions. The warmest of hugs. Never with an "I told you so," but always with forgiveness. She said it with the tone of her voice -- sometimes yelling at us in sheer frustration and other times with her contagious laugh. Before I ever knew I was going to be a mother of four, she gave me my first glimpse of what it would be like to be a mama.

She came home from the hospital and it felt like I hadn't seen her in years when it had only been two days. As she settled into the couch with my new baby brother snuggled against her chest, I couldn't help but feel uncertain. He was tiny and smelled like baby powder and newness. It was the newness that made me anxious. Ten-year-old me wondered how could she love him and the rest of us? Would she care about him more? And before I knew it, I loved that baby brother of mine. She showed me with her actions, day after day, that she loved all of us. Her mother's heart just knew how to grow to make space for all of us. She said it with the way she would put my baby brother down and make room for the rest of us on her lap with the promise of:

There will be days like this.

And when I brought my fourth baby home, I knew my oldest daughter wondered: Would I love her less? Would I love her baby brother more? One afternoon, I left her baby brother home with Nana so I could take her out on a date -- hot chocolate and cookies. And we only talked about her. I asked all about her school day, while she chatted with her sparkling brown eyes that told me: Thank you for still loving me. As if my heart could do anything but that -- because my heart grew and grew and grew... it grew to great depths to hold the love I have for my four children. It grew without me even trying, because a mother's heart knows just what to do to fit all the pieces of her children in it perfectly. Yes, Mama said there would be days like this.

I scanned the audience. Looking, searching, desperately trying to find her face -- feeling my cheeks flushed, feeling like everyone was looking at me, when really, they were all looking for their children. I smiled when I found her. My mom. I felt less nervous once I saw her sitting hand in hand with my dad, their eyes on me and my sister, and as the choir sang -- doing our best to remember all the words -- I saw her eyes fill with tears. I didn't understand why she was crying and smiling at the same time. I had no idea -- but it was in her expression that Mama said:

There will be days like this.

And as I watched my daughter march into the cafeteria, cheeks flushed, I saw her searching the audience. I knew exactly who she was looking for. Her bandana tied around her neck, her cowboy hat tilted back so it looked like a little halo around her dark hair. Her eyes were darting around, our eyes locked and saw her breathe a sigh of relief, I knew she had been looking for me. I sat hand-in-hand with her father, and as the students broke out into a song, before I could even realize what was happening, the tears filled my eyes. With pride. With love. I couldn't stop smiling as I looked at my husband and told him I didn't know why I was crying: Mama said there would be days like this.

She'd come home from work -- tired but smiling. And as she'd make our dinner, the house was loud with the five of us kids chasing each other, sometimes playfully, sometimes bickering and I'd see in her warm brown eyes just how exhausted she was and yet we'd hang on her, never giving her a moment of rest. Desperately needing some peace, she'd shoo us out of the house with tired eyes that said:

There will be days like this.

The days are sometimes so long and the fighting seems constant, but it's broken up by play and laughter. I sometimes count down the hours until my husband will be home -- needing just a moment of peace and quiet away from the hands and eyes of the four little children that search me out. Sometimes I'm just so tired I fall asleep right after I tuck them in, the sheer exhaustion that only a mother knows finally getting to me.

Yes, Mama said there would be days like this.

She hadn't wanted us to date, but reluctantly told us we could once I was 16. When I was 17 and my boyfriend went away to college, he came back one weekend to let me know it was over. She found me in the driveway. I was crying so hard I thought that surely, my heart must be broken. By now, I towered over her and yet somehow, she managed to pick me up and get me into the house, never saying, I told you so. Instead, hugging me so fiercely I could feel her wishing she could take away my pain and bear it all on her own. She said it in her silence:

There will be days like this.

My daughter's hands were shaking as she struggled through a math problem. She was working so hard to try to understand and yet, she just needed more time, more tutoring, more practice. But the test was the next day and she knew she wasn't ready. As the tears started spilling from her worried eyes, I took her pencil away and grabbed her into my arms. She wrapped all her wiry limbs around me and I remembered carrying her as a newborn -- wishing then and wishing now that she would never have to struggle. In a heartbeat I would take her pain and worry away, and hold it on my own so she wouldn't have to suffer -- if only I could. I remembered with a broken heart:

Mama said there would be days like this.

I knew my parents worried about money. Which bills to pay now, what could be saved for later. And every time something unexpected came up -- something that would pull them back when it seemed like they had just gotten ahead -- I'd hear my mom tell my dad: It's just a test, we'll be OK. And we always were. Life at home always felt full of love and adventure. It was in her sighs that Mama said:

There will be days like this.

We had just had our fourth baby and bought a new home. A few months later, my husband lost his job. Bills piled up and we took money from our savings... laying awake at night in each other's arms as we whispered our worries, but somehow we always had faith things would work out. Our family grew stronger in the time he was home -- love and faith is what carried us through.

Oh yes, my Mama said there would be days like this.

When my children are grown with children of their own -- facing struggles, joys, tears, exhaustion, worry, pride and love -- my heart tells me they will look back and see it was always written on my face:

Mama said there would be days like this.

Nicole Scott writes about being a mama of 4 at MyFitFamily.

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