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The Better Thing

Last week I had the (increasing amount of) gray taken out of my hair by my sweet young hairstylist, Courtney. Courtney had just returned from her maternity leave. She was bubbling over with excitement to show me the cherub cheeks of her 8-week-old firstborn, Veda. As she swiped-left through her phone in the way new mothers do – every picture only a blink-of-an-eye different from the previous – but each wonderfully unique to Mom, I ooh-ed and aww-ed, genuinely. Truth be told I got more joy out of watching Courtney. In the weeks leading up to Veda’s birth she assured me that she would be back. She might miss one blow dry of my hair, but only one. Six weeks, she promised, and her chair would be back in business.

But I knew better.

I knew that pregnancy was theory and Veda was reality. I knew that the best laid plans of professional women are blown to pieces by sweet baby’s breath. I knew that 8 pounds of baby carried the emotional wallop of a Mack truck and the strength that builds a career is no match for the smell of a baby’s head. I know about Mom-crazy. The heart-stopping, panic inducing, overwhelming love-sack of emotion that lands on the most practical of us when our first born changes our identity from woman to mother.

I was Courtney 28 years ago today.

On January 23, 1990 Jordan Chiero created a mother. At the time I was a traveling producer for The 700 Club television show. I landed in a different city every three weeks to do interviews with interesting people. My pre-birth plans were clear: put me back on the road at week seven. In fact, make that week three. I’m fine. Baby will be fine. Child care plans lined up. Post-it care notes on the wall. Wipe those proverbial hands on Huggies and give me the itinerary. The problem with my plan was a boy. A sweet, incredible, all-engrossing, time consuming, love-inducing boy who had a name, Jordan, and before he could say a word was far more interesting to me than anyone I was slated to interview.

This picture was taken the week before I was scheduled to get on the first post-birth plane. It was taken as I cried. Because I knew that the Kathy who made the plans couldn’t carry them out; that there was a seismic and fundamental shift in the make-up of this career-driven woman. If I left this child’s zip code without him I was certain I couldn’t breathe. (So, I took him with me, but that’s another blog.)

I told Courtney that story when she told me she would be leaving her chair empty, moving to part-time to care for Veda. I told her that my gray hair would be slightly more visible between our visits, but Veda was far more important. She told me she was trying to “get over" guilt in both directions. Guilt for leaving Veda. Guilt for leaving her clients.

Good news: it's just hair. It will be here when you get back. Get over it. Get over us.

Bad news on the home front. You never get over it. In fact, it gets worse.

Three weeks ago I took my now-adult children to Hawaii. Ages 23-25-27. Since we were leaving 6 degree temperatures and landing in 80 degree temperatures I told them to leave their heavy coats in the car so that we didn’t have to carry them in Hawaii.

Heavy turbulence struck the plane as we were over the Pacific. Where did my mother-mind instantly go? I fretted that if we crashed in the freezing Pacific they wouldn’t have coats because I made them leave the coats in Ohio. My fault. Irrational. Guilt. Protective. Instantly responsible. Two weeks after our return Hawaii had the false nuclear missile alarm. Safely back home in Ohio I had an instinctive gut-sick reaction. What would I have done? I can’t stop a nuclear missile with a throw of my right arm across their chest like I do in the front seat. (Although I would have tried.)

It never ends.

I told Courtney never to get over it. In fact, get in it. Inhale every precious moment. Engage every emotion. And prepare that the best is yet to come. Every age is wonderful but the best age of children is when they are no longer children. When the adult you contributed to gives back in the most wonderful ways.

Happy Birthday Jordan. The contributor to my gray hair. The teacher of The Better Thing. And a thousand joys along the way.

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