My children don’t call me Mom, which is sort of strange since in the nearly 20 years that I’ve been a mother, I’ve been Soccer Mom, Baseball Mom, Cheer Mom, Trap shooting Mom, Goat Showing Mom, Gymnastics Mom, Volleyball Mom, Football Mom, Wrestling Mom, Dance Mom, Track mom, and Band Mom.I’ve worn a lot of Mom Hats.

Baseball Mom is super important. She brings the snacks, slathers her outfielder with sunscreen, and (mostly) gets the grass and blood stains out of white baseball pants.

Dance Mom is essential. She carries extra bobby pins and tights. She drives insanely long distances to take her little dancer to camps and conventions, and she forgoes a few of her own luxuries to pay for lessons and sequined costumes.

Track Mom huddles in the cold for hours waiting to watch her hurdler run for 30 seconds. Football Mom prays. Band Mom listens. Wrestling Mom cringes. And you don’t even want to know what Goat-Showing Mom does.

Doing all that mom stuff is an important job. Being Mom is what I do, but it’s not who I am.

No, even though I’m the mother of four, I don’t think of myself as Mom, and my kids don’t call me Mom – at least not as a rule. As they’ve gotten older, Mommy and Mama are occasionally swapped out for Mom, and I bristle at the sound, not just because it’s a reminder that they’re growing up, but because I’ve always thought of myself a Mama.

I do Mom stuff, but I’m Mama…

Mama cuddles. She tucks her little ones in, and waits up late for her big kids.

She makes pancakes and peanut butter cookies and cheesy potato soup. She reminds everyone to rinse their dishes and brush their teeth.

Mama reads Make Way for Ducklings and Mike Mulligan and Blueberries for Sal again and again and again, and still does the voices. She cries at the end of Charlotte’s Web – every single time.

Mama dries tears, removes splinters, and bandages knees. She folds the laundry, does the dishes and picks up the toys. She teaches her children to fold the laundry, do the dishes and pick up the toys.

She is patient. Mama listens to corny knock knock jokes and too long (so long) stories about what happened at recess, or who cut in line, or missed their turn, or broke a rule, or tattled, or something like that. (Okay, sometimes she only half listens.)

Mama dashes to the kitchen to find a jar for the fireflies. She scrambles to locate a shoe box for the turtle. She dutifully admires toads and lizards and tadpoles.

Mama talks with her children about the books they’re reading, the things they’re learning and the places they hope to go.

She’s there for her children when their friends are mean. She aches when they’re left out. She cries when they aren’t looking.

Mama hosts birthday parties and sleepovers and boy/girl parties. She talks to her kids about kindness. She talks to them about strangers and dangers, about sex and love and growing up and being good people.

Mama prays.

She referees fights. She makes her children talk, share, make up, and work it out themselves.

Mama tells funny stories. She stays up way too late with her kids watching old movies. She introduces them to Alfred Hitchcock and Doctor Who and Little House on the Prairie. Mama hangs out in the kitchen talking to her kids when they come home from dates. She tries to play it cool – striking the balance between listening and prying, between friend and parent.

Mama loves.

It’s because Mama loves that she agrees to be Baseball Mom, Football Mom, Dance Mom, Cheer Mom, and every other kind of Mom her kids need her to be. Being Mom is an inevitable and important part of being Mama – but it’s not the best part.

The best part of being Mama is the countless, seemingly mundane, endless moments of motherhood. All of it – the cuddling, the reading, the talking, the scolding, the lessons, and the listening – these are the things that’ll help her children become who they’re meant to be even more so than any sport or hobby or activity ever could. 

And even though the days sometimes feel mundane, they damn sure are not endless. Just like that there will be no more morning cuddles or scraped knees. No more ducklings. No more toads to admire, or ponytails to fix. No more curfews to enforce, or fights to referee. There will also be no more baseball games, or band concerts, or track meets.

When that day comes, when my children are all grown, I know their most important memories will not be of scoring home runs or nailing dance routines. They won’t remember the snacks I brought to baseball games, or the sacrifices I made, or the hours I spent driving them to their activities.

The thing that will shape them, the thing they’ll remember most, will be the utter joy and comfort of being completely loved, even in the most everyday ways, by Mama.