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'Mom Is Crying Again'

Photograph by Getty Images

“Mom’s crying again,” my son says, elbowing my daughter.

They’re still young—both under 6 years old—but they’re old enough to gang up on me. And that’s what they do when they see me crying. There was a time when they were fascinated by my public displays of emotion, but that has long since faded. My daughter looks over at me to confirm the waterworks, and when our eyes meet, hers roll. I shrug my shoulders and mouth, “Sorry!”

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Today’s tears are the hardest kind to explain, because I am not sad or hurt or upset. We are crammed in the lobby of their school singing songs, the words of which are projected onto the wall by an old school projector. These “Lobby Sings” take place every few months and it’s as chaotic and hot and crowded as you might imagine an elementary school lobby to be. In 30 minutes, we cover ground ranging from “Over the River and Through the Woods,” to “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

My tears start the second the music teacher plays the first bar on the baby grande in the corner. The emotions well up from the deepest corner of my mothering heart. The first time it happened my daughter asked me why it made me so sad. “I’m not sad,” I assured her. “I’m happy to be right here singing with you.” Kiddo, there’s nowhere else I want to be. Not even close.

I’m not a religious person, but sitting on the hard floor surrounded by little kids and their parents feels like sitting in the very heart of a powerful, benevolent Divinity. Their little voices—the earnestness and the innocence—joined with those of their parents, who have pushed off conference calls and postponed appointments to sit here and sing off key with the rest of us, well, it just makes me cry.

I never cried tears like this before I became a mother. I didn’t become emotional on a near-daily basis.

While I’m definitely not sad, it’s also more complicated than being happy. It’s the cry of being full, of feeling grace all around me, of knowing for at least these few moments, I’m in exactly the right place with all the right people. My tears are the expression of the overwhelming and inexplicable emotions that blossomed inside me when my kids showed up in my life as little newborns who changed absolutely everything.

They are tears of vulnerability. Tears that recognize my blessings, acknowledge my privilege and accept inexplicable forces that led me to this one precious moment where I can actually recognize and feel all of these things.

And it’s not just the singing that gets me. The newsletters from my children’s school with anecdotes about the children building a skating ring with blocks choke me up. When my daughter comforts her little brother—her little arm around his neck as she whispers “it’s OK, little buddy” into his ear, my eyes mist up. When my son falls asleep on my shoulder softly snoring or my daughter draws me a picture with dozens of hearts on it, I feel that tremble that comes just before the tears fall.

I never cried tears like this before I became a mother. I didn’t become emotional on a near-daily basis. Sure, I used to cry when I was sad or angry, but that was relatively rare.

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What I know is that these not-sad-but-more-complicated-than-happy tears are a by-product of motherhood just like my 10-inch C-section scar or my lopsided-from-nursing breasts. I love these tears, these signposts of the grace in my life. I accept that my children may make fun of me for the rest of their lives.

“Go ahead and roll your eyes,” I say, then I grab a tissue and wipe my own.

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