Bloomin’ Mom Shares: Starting Over – By Shawn Marie Mann
I watched my daughter move effortlessly from the chimes to the xylophone and snare drum on the stage. Years of practice have made her a talented percussionist, but now that phase of her life is ending. This is her last performance in high school and soon she will be leaving to join the Marines.
I thought of my two younger children, ages two and three, at home with their father. I had hoped they could attend their older sister’s final concert, but they both had come down with colds and fever. I wondered how they were doing.
Sometimes it amazes me that I am the mother of three children. When I was growing up I thought four children would be ideal, but for many years it seemed that my daughter would be an only child.
In the early years of my life, at age 24, my first husband and I were blessed with this wonderful baby girl. She had chubby cheeks and a killer grin. She was the first grandchild on each side and spoiled to pieces but we didn’t mind.
As with many early marriages we struggled to keep house and home together. Long hours were spent working while my daughter was raised by a team of family and daycare providers. Every day I couldn’t wait to get back home to see her, to read to her before bed and to sneak in at night and watch her sleep.
It was partially those long working hours that prompted our decision to not have more children. My dream of a large family got tucked away with so many others only to be pulled out occasionally when I had a moment to think.
Gradually I worked less and was paid more. My daughter joined softball, scouts and began playing the drums. I spent my free time being chauffeur and cheerleader to her in whatever she did. Sometimes when a milestone was reached like leaving elementary school or moving up to the next level in softball, I felt a sense of loss that these things would never come back to me as a parent. I only had this one chance.
Then things changed in my life forever. My first marriage ended and I found myself a single parent to this busy young woman. Several years later I met a caring man who loved me and my daughter and we began to talk marriage… and children.
I was getting up there in years and I knew there were risks, but somehow I knew things would be fine. My daughter was just starting high school when I remarried and became pregnant.
So many of my friends and coworkers couldn’t believe I was going to “start over” with more children after my daughter had reached high school age. It was as if they felt once their kids graduated that they stopped being parents and their “job” was over.
I always laughed at this since nothing could be farther from the truth. I watch my own parents still worry about me, still fight for what is best for me, and I know my job as a mother will not end until I do. And I was fine with that.
I had my second daughter at the age of 38. No words can express the emotions I felt as I saw my oldest daughter, still in her sweaty softball uniform, holding her tiny sister the night she was born. It was as if I could see the future of the youngest in the eyes of the oldest.
Fifteen months later, at the age of 39, I gave birth to my son on the day my oldest took her PSATs to prepare for college. I always thought I’d want all girls, but this little guy grabbed my heart from the moment he arrived. He is my last child and the apple of my eye.
Now as I prepare for the graduation of my oldest, I have the younger ones to color with and take to the park. It is a very full life for a mother to have and I cherish every moment.
Shawn Marie Mann is a freelance writer and amusement park historian and geographer who lives in Central Pennsylvania with her family, two cats and five goldfish. She has had stories published in five different Chicken Soup for the Soul books and she runs her own website at www.amusementparkmom.com providing travel tips for families visiting amusement parks in Pennsylvania.