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cupcakeYesterday was Mother’s Day. I bought my mom cupcakes from this little bakery in my hometown that recently competed on Cupcake Wars. The lady who took my phone order made sure to mention that at least 27 times. I get it: You’re cool. I went to church and watched all the moms revel in the love of their kids and the acknowledgement and appreciation from the pastors on stage. I smiled and said thank you when an usher wished me a happy Mother’s Day as I took my seat in the back row. And then that afternoon, without planning it, I spent a couple hours watching old videos of the kids from when they were only two, three, four, five years old.

That one where she opens up her plastic Easter eggs one by one, searching for that specific type of candy she likes. “All chocolate,” she mumbles, disappointed.

And that one where he sings “It’s a Small World After All” but cannot for the life of him remember the words to the verse, so he just keeps starting the whole song over and over and over.

And that one where she simply does not want to eat her salad and chicken, until she learns that she won’t get a cupcake unless she finishes her dinner, which she negotiates to equal exactly eight more bites.

And that one where he stands on a chair in the kitchen to help cook, meticulously cutting little chunks off of apple slices using the side of a spoon.

And that one where she starts dancing like crazy and singing “I can’t resist! I can’t resist!” even though she admittedly doesn’t know what those words even mean.

And that one where he doesn’t want to go to his Sunday School class and just stares at the camera, his beautiful brown eyes filling with tears.

And about 20 more video clips.

I watched them all. I laughed. I cried. Because I love these kids with all my heart and would do anything for them. Just like any mother would, right?

The only catch is they’re not exactly my kids. They belong to my sister and her husband. Details, details.

The truth is, just because I don’t have my own kids doesn’t make me any less connected to the kids in my life. And on days like Mother’s Day, I refuse to let society define me by whether or not I’ve been impregnated by a man. Because, what if that never happens? What if I never have the opportunity to have kids of my own?

tree fortIn my earlier years, I imagined myself with a whole brood of little ones by this point. I imagined them all climbing trees and playing catch in the backyard. I imagined calling them in for dinner from the porch. I imagined them running in and giving me big hugs with their dirty little hands.

Life hasn’t exactly worked out that way. It’s hard to come to grips with why sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. It’s hard to understand why God would withhold something so good from me, something he calls a blessing in the Bible. It’s hard to comprehend why he’d give me such a strong desire to start a family and not provide a way to do it.

But then I remind myself, I’m already a great mom.

To those kids in Sunday School.

To my niece, my nephews.

To my neighbor’s boys that I babysit.

To my friends’ children.

To the precious ones at the orphanage.

To my godson.

To the little girl I met on the bus.

Time is a funny thing. It unknowingly and unfairly makes life a race, a contest. But time is just a tool for us to measure when the church service starts or when the next Blue Line train will pull into the station. Time is not the end-all qualifier of our success in life. As much as I know this to be true, I too often let myself forget it. But not today.

Today I throw out the clocks and calendars. I rip up the checklists and bucket lists. And I choose to love, to live, to appreciate — in this very moment, with exactly what I have right now.

So to all the moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day — whether or not you have children of your own. You are loved.

~Ruth