For the sleeplessness that began when you single-handedly nourished a seven-pound being from the extra fat and limited energy reserves of your own body and which continues when you wake up in a panic, imagining your absent teenage daughter in the back of some loser’s car, potentially setting herself up to single-handedly nourish a seven-pound being.
For interrupted thought processes, essential work-related phone calls and three-quarters of all conversations, toilet time and love-making.
For repeated cleaning of feces, paint, vomit, play-dough, yogurt, gum, mud, unidentifiable moldy liquids left in sippy cups, fingernail polish on family heirlooms, silly putty from carpet and sticker-burs from the matted, waste-length hair of your hungover 15-year-old daughter (thanks Mom).
For the hours of fruitless attempts to organize closets, crayons, cabinets, couch cushions and chaos.
For the stretch marks, the cracked nipples, the varicose veins and the scar over your left eye from the time your toddler stabbed you with a finger nail file in a fit of rage (as thanks for trying to save him from injuring himself.)
For the countless unappreciated meals, painstakingly prepared with attention to dietary restrictions, personal preferences, a standard of health, environmental consciousness, a limited budget, and without burning the baby on your hip when she reaches for the boiling pot of vegetable soup (no dairy, local veggies, broth on sale, pureed for the picky).
For the hundreds of times you’ve bent over to sort through the dirt pile while sweeping, removing puzzle pieces, plastic pinata prizes, ponytail holders and Polly Pocket pants. Also for the times you swept them up and tossed them, guiltlessly, chalking it off to natural consequence.
For your zen-like nature, as is evident by your ability to completely ignore the baby crawling under your down-dog and the two kids running through the living room with water grenades while you do your daily yoga.
For maintaining your composure while your children offer details of your digestive dilemmas to the guests at your dinner party or explain your weakest moments of parenting as if they happen every day.
For the hours you spend diverting the attention of your confined baby with repeated ridiculous noises and expressions while pushing the shopping cart, driving down the highway and taking care of essential business in quiet, un-kid-friendly buildings.
For the times you take your preteen to mall with her friends (despite your preference to be enjoying your Saturday), follow her around (just out of sight) and swallow your disdain for what she’s wearing, the way she’s pretending the broken cell phone she carries is actually activated and the disgusting display of sexual images aimed at impressionable prepubescents.
For the removal of broken glass, the rapid assessment for severity of bloody wounds, the countless reminders not to hit windows with mallets, sticks or hammers and the hours spent in ER waiting rooms.
For enduring long-winded and half-true explanations over who is responsible for letting your neighbor’s now-missing 15-year-old dog-child out of their yard, spilling an entire quart of yogurt between the stove and the counter top, or using your new shirt in an attempt to wipe away chapstick drawings from the bathroom mirror.
For the bonding moments over ice cream AFTER your 12-year-old’s rude comment strikes a cord from some unresolved sixth-grade insecurity and – bruised – you proceed to respond as if you, too, were back in middle school.
For attempting to maintain the near-impossible balance between helping but not enabling, protecting while still allowing a few hard knocks, disciplining while honoring their humanness, receiving repeated hateful treatment but not reciprocating, keeping them healthy without turning them into deprived, junk food-obsessed, closet Pop-Tart bingers, encouraging them to be kind but not without a backbone, and talking to them about sex without making it sound either appealing or forbidden, as both may very well back-fire.