I'm not talking about actual things - like necklaces made of Froot Loops and macaroni, or a project comprised of the construction paper/popsicle stick/glue trifecta. (Although Lord knows I have enough pasta and cereal-containing crafts to subsist on for a week if I ever somehow get stranded with nothing but my kids' memory box.)
... Or the special Mother's Day "finger-warmer" my six-year-old fashioned from notebook paper and electrical tape. Clearly he should have considered getting me a manicure instead.
... Because my index finger often gets cold on eighty-degree days.
I'm talking about the ways in which my kids have changed me - and there are tons. They make me happy. They make me proud. They make me want to lock myself in the bathroom with a box of Twinkies. And from the day they were born, they've made me ...
1.) A Big Pile of Mush
This could actually be taken literally, seeing as pregnancy left me with enough residual skin and flab to reupholster my couch (if I were, you know, psychopathic). But. In this case I mean emotional mush. I see my kids in the faces of every starving, hungry-eyed child on the TV commercials for charities. I nearly get sick at reports of pedophiles. I bawl uncontrollably for an hour over blogs by parents of terminally ill children. Where I used to be able to unflinchingly watch doom-and-gloom news reports, I can't see anything anymore without somehow relating it back to my kids - which makes it 100% more ... raw. Pow! Right in the feels.
2.) My Mother
Since I've had kids, I sometimes open my mouth and say things like, "Just look, don't touch!" ... which happens to be the exact same phrase that I utterly despised hearing as a child. I can still hear the way my mom said it - the prim admonition of her voice, lighting in my ear like a mosquito. Yet here I am, not only saying it, but saying it in an identical tone.
I can't say that being like my mother is entirely a bad thing, though. She's a pretty fantastic mom. (Except for that time I almost choked to death on a hard candy and she didn't even notice me frantically trying to get her attention because she was too busy talking to my sister, but hey. I'm not one to hold grudges.)
3.) An Asshole
I spent most of my pre-motherhood life being sweet, even at times when I probably shouldn't have been. I don't know what it is, exactly, but being a mother has triggered some sort of mama-bear instinct - because when somebody messes with my children, they mess with me. It's like PMS times ten. I remember being surprised the first time I stood up for one of my sons: I didn't even mentally re-word my opinion in a sweet and tactful way.
Similarly, I also take less and less of people's crap in general.* Maybe being that way with the kids is giving me lots of practice.
*This also may have a teensy bit to do with my advancing age. I aspire to someday be a crotchety old lady.
4.) A Blogger
I have always liked to write. And I've always written as an emotional outlet. But after becoming a mom, I "went public" with my personal writing. It was an effort to reach out to somebody - anybody - who was familiar with my lifestyle of crumbs, snot smears, Dora, and stretch pants. Thus, a blogger was born.
5.) More Appreciative
I will spend my last dollar on my kids. I will monumentally rearrange my schedule just to accommodate their various appointments and events. I will spend a day at the zoo with a multitude of yapping Kindergartners. I will turn down the opportunity to get drunk during the day. (What?) I will go without, so they don't have to. I do all these things, and more, because I love them like crazy and I want them to be happy. Do they appreciate it? Hell no. They're kids. And having been a kid at one point, I know from personal experience that you have no idea how much your parents do for you until you actually become a parent yourself.
So thanks, Mom, for all the stuff you did for me as a child ... all the things I took for granted.
Except for that one time when you didn't even notice that I was choking on a piece of hard candy.
Didn't. Even. NOTICE.
... But hey. I'm not one to hold grudges.