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Happy Seventh Birthday

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Today is my son’s seventh birthday.

When he was born, I made a pledge to write everything down—I didn’t. Next, I swore I’d write him a letter every year on his birthday—I wrote two.

Last year, when I lost my job and my son asked me what job I wanted, I told him I wanted to be a writer. “You’re a great writer,” he reassured me; he encouraged me and believed me when I didn’t believe myself.

This year, I owe him a letter. (I stepped up my game with a bonus Avatar; very Mommy 2.0).

He is all parts: my medicine, my cheerleader, my heart in the beating world.

I think back to my forty-five-hour labor and snicker at how easy that was compared with the rest of it. Confined to a hospital, I had doctors telling me what to do during every step of bringing him into the world, only to abandon me the minute he popped out.

Some say I’m a natural—but I doubt, I struggle, I fear, I get tired, I feel guilty. I am a mother.

I was never a baby person—or a kid person. I didn’t even like kids when I was a kid. I preferred to play with the adults. Lucky for me, my kid was born an old soul.

I single-handedly put on a three-ring circus for him in hopes of eliciting a smirk. On his first birthday, my sister engaged him in a forty-five-minute game of peek-a-boo because he was laughing so hard; we were like drug addicts with that laugh. I wanted to turn it into an MP3 and put it on repeat. The sound still fuels like no other.

All the mother clichés come into focus when you join the motherhood club. You start spewing the phrases without ever truly learning the language—the mommy-isms, they find you.

Things our mothers tell us stick with us at different times for different reasons. I never know which tidbits of wisdom my son will hold on to or which he’ll ignore. He’ll forget all the nights I stayed up with him, but he’ll never let forget the time I said my grandmother’s building smelled like piss. When I come home, I have to make him dinner, so that makes me less fun—I’m not playing with him.

There are the standards like “Don’t cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way” or “Brush your teeth, go to bed, get dressed, hurry up, slow down, no, because I said so.”

Then there are the special gems hidden inside each family. My mother had some winners. Not all of them translate from Russian very well, but they certainly add to the humor (or wisdom?).

Here are some of my mother’s mama-isms:

On jewelry: “Anklets are worn only by prostitutes.”

On life: “If you laugh a lot now, you’ll be crying later.”

On relationships: “If there are more tears than laughter, it’s time to go.”

On men: “If a man is a little bit better-looking than a monkey, then that’s good already.”

On skinny girls: “No tits, no pussy, and her ass is a fist.”

On motherhood: “When you fall down or cry out, you always cry, ‘Mommy.’”

I laugh often, cry often, and have still never worn an anklet.

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