“Do you still remember how to French braid my hair?” I asked my mom as I collapsed at the kitchen table. It was our third day in our new house. My mom had come over to help watch the kids while I cleaned and unpacked more boxes and my husband made multiple trips with truckloads of our belongings. My feet ached, my head hurt, and exhaustion was heavy on my shoulders. Whoever voluntarily moves with two kids under 5 is an insane person. We are insane people.
The move was good for us, good for our family. We were now in a neighborhood with lots of other little kids, a grassy field and community play area, basketball court, flat streets and sidewalks for the kids to walk and ride bikes. It was springtime, summer was approaching quickly, and we were excited about the fun times our family, our kids, would experience here. Not to mention bonuses like an indoor laundry room. No more shuffling out to the garage, in all types of weather, to do laundry. The new house had a kitchen that was square and off to the side. No more galley kitchen with a walkway the size of an airplane aisle right in the middle of the house, with kids running back and forth as we tried to cook dinner. Still close to work and close to family. “Yes, this was definitely worth it,” I repeated to myself as my husband dragged in yet another box labeled kitchen. For being a small galley kitchen, we sure did manage to fit a lot in it.
I had finally showered. I was clean, but I was out of energy to do my hair. I thought, throwing it back in a cute French braid would sure be nice, but I am very challenged when it comes to styling my own hair and the energy that would take to even attempt it, I just didn’t have. So I asked my mom if she remembered how. “I think I do, “ my mom softly chuckled as she picked up strands of my hair sliding them through her fingertips. My kids were playing in the living room and starting to get restless. They hadn’t been outside all day. I still somehow thought my mom might be able to braid my hair as the kids played. Looking back now I realized this was delusional, exhausted thinking but at that moment, I so just wanted my hair braided.
When I was a little girl, we saw a teenager at church French braid her own hair during the sermon. We sat a few rows back from her in the congregation and I remember staring at her in awe as the pastor delivered his message. She steadily weaved her hair back and forth together in a single beautiful braid without even looking at it in a mirror! I whispered to my mom, ”Do you think you could do that to my hair?”
She leaned into me and whispered back, “I can try.”
She sure did try. This was before Pinterest how-to’s and step-by-step YouTube videos. She basically self-taught herself how to French braid. For years, she braided my hair. One French braid down the center or two French braids on the sides. I loved when she braided my hair. I can think of no better childhood comfort that my mom braiding my hair. Such love poured into each weave and gather of hair. I realized there at my kitchen table that I longed for this feeling. To be cared for, like a child. I was tired of being the mom, I wanted to be the child again, just for a few minutes.
My mom started gathering the top strands of my hair when suddenly my daughter yelled out, “Owww!,” as she collapsed on the ground and let out a screaming cry .
“What happened?” I asked, rather annoyed.
“I stepped on a Lego!” she sobbed. Tears streamed down her reddened cheeks. My mom, or “Nana,” as my kids so lovingly call her, dropped the strands of my hair and rushed over to her. I honestly don’t even remember moving at first. I stayed in that kitchen chair. I was so tired and I really just wanted my hair braided.
Come on. I thought. Of course you get hurt now.
I know the sacrifice that motherhood requires- the sacrifice of your old body, the sacrifice of your time, the sacrifice of your needs, the sacrifice of the ability to sit through a whole meal uninterrupted, but at that moment as my mom held and comforted my daughter, I realized the days of having my own hair braided were probably over (unless I learned how to do it myself, HA!). I also realized that my mom, now a Nana, was still making sacrifices for her children. She was here helping me, helping my kids, on her day off. It was then that I realized, the sacrifices of motherhood continue on no matter the age of your kids. There is some sort of shift in the universe when one becomes a mother. The permanent shift into service and self-sacrifice. This, of course comes naturally without even realizing it for many parts of being a mother, but for some parts, it’s still rather difficult. If I am being honest, I struggle. I still get upset that I can’t do what I want, when I want to.
I never did get my hair braided that day. I knew the kids needed to get outside and play. As I threw my damp wad of hair in a messy bun (sounds cuter than it looked, trust me), I belted out to my kids, “Who wants to go for a walk?!”
“YEEEAAHH!” They yelled, cheered and clapped. We hurriedly put on shoes, socks and shuffled out the the door. My mom went home after a long day of helping out and I was and will be forever grateful to her. I accepted the fact that I had to make the sacrifice of my own wants in order to meet my kids’ needs. And I was okay with it. This was not first time, nor will it be the last time I put my desires aside for my children. The feeling I had at the kitchen table, that longing to be cared for by my mother, is the same feeling my kids have, longing to be cared for by me. The way my mom sacrificed her time and energy when my brother and I were kids, weaved hundreds of French braids for years, and still helps me today with my own family, is the way I am realizing I also must serve as a mother.
I don’t get my hair braided by my mother anymore, despite my nostalgic desire for it. But she still cares for me in ways that matter more now as an adult. She is forever serving and self-sacrificing as we both age. I am forever going to love, serve and sacrifice for my own children because that’s what mothers do. I am not just a daughter, I am a mother. I’ll have to learn to braid my own hair.