If you have no armsTo hold your crying child but your own armsAnd no legs but your own to run the stairs one more timeTo fetch what was forgottenI bow to youIf you have no vehicleTo tote your wee one but the wheels that you driveAnd no one else to worry, “Is my baby okay?”When you have to say goodbye on the doorsteps of daycareor on that cursed first day of schoolI bow to youIf you have no skill but your own skillTo replenish an ever-emptying bank accountAnd no answers but your own toSatisfy the endless whys, hows, and whens your child asks and asks againI bow to youIf you have no tongue to tell the truthTo keep your beloved on the path without a precipiceAnd no wisdom to impartExcept the wisdom that you’ve acquiredI bow to youIf the second chair is emptyAcross the desk from a scornful, judging authority waitingFor your child’s father to appearAnd you straighten your spine where you sitAnd manage to smile and say, “No one else is coming—I’m it.”Oh, I bow to youIf your head aches when the spotlight finally shineson your child because your hands are the only hands there to applaudI bow to youIf your heart aches because you’ve given until everything in you is goneAnd your kid declares, “It’s not enough.”And you feel the crack of your own soul as you whisper,“I know, baby. But it’s all mama’s got.”Oh, how I bow to youIf they are your life while you are their nurse, tutor, maidBread winner and bread baker,Coach, cheerleader and teammate…If you bleed when your child falls downI bow, I bow, I bowIf you’re both punisher and huggerAnd your own tears are drowned out by the running of the bathroom faucetbecause children can’t know that mamas hurt tooOh, mother of mothers, I bow to you.—Toni Sorenson

~ Toni Sorenson