From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

The Storyteller

The older I become, the more I think about my mother.

Ingmar Bergman

It didn’t matter who was within earshot or that I’d heard it a zillion times before. Mother was on a roll, telling about a picture they took of me holding up four fingers to show how “big” I was getting. Then she’d describe all the cute things I did.

During high school, I rolled my eyes and cringed at each telling. When I protested, she sighed, “When you’re a mother, you’ll understand.”

During college, I winced but learned to tolerate her reminiscing. As an adult, I learned to smile and shake my head slightly to imply: Mothers, what can you do? But she knew what I was thinking and she’d repeat, “When you’re a mother, you’ll understand.”

Okay, I am now a mother.

Recently, I came across the photos of Sarah’s fourth birthday party. In one, she’s wearing a party hat and blowing out candles. In another, her face puckers with

“brain freeze” from the huge bite of ice cream in her mouth. But my favorite is the picture of her dressed like Belle.

Not only had my mother given her the Disney doll from Beauty and the Beast, but she’d given her amatching princess gown and crown. Sarah took one look at it and rushed upstairs.

“Mommy, look at me!” she called minutes later. My little princess glided down in full Belle regalia, doll cradled in her arms, and paraded around the room. Then she leaped into her grandma’s arms, and their smiles beamed toward the camera—my mother and Sarah.

As I gazed at the picture, I finally understood.

I understood how amazing it is to see my child growing so quickly before my eyes. How she holds my face in her hands to make funny fish lips. How she plays pretend school and orders her stuffed, furry students to sit “crisscross, applesauce.” How she crushes me in a bear hug one minute and pulls away the next.

I understood that childhood is fleeting, and I must treasure these precious moments. After all, someday I’ll want to remember them through the telling and the retelling . . . just like my mother did. And when Sarah rolls her eyes and complains, I’ll simply smile and say, “When you’re a mother, you’ll understand.”

Eliza Ong

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