I was 32 when I became a mom.
I’d been married for nearly 10 years, but we’d chosen to wait to start a family. Wait so we could finish school. So we could be settled. So we could be successful. So we could travel. So we’d be ready when the “perfect” time finally arrived.
As if there’d ever be such a thing.
We were lucky. When we finally felt the time was “right,” we didn’t have to wait. I was pregnant right away and nine months later, give birth to Son – who had one of the most gigantic heads you’ve ever seen on a mammal and yet, was still an ounce shy of nine pounds. Seriously, we wondered whether that cranium would hinder Son's ability to walk upright.
I wasn’t home from the hospital more than 24 hours, before I knew that all that waiting and considering and planning did nothing to ease the transition to momdom. Parenting was hard. Hard? Cripes. Talk about an understatement. As much as I loved, adored and doted on Son, as much as his needs and future needs consumed my every waking hour – and many of my sleeping hours, too – I felt like I’d never get it right.
I remember blubbering to Son’s dad, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I'M SORRY! I know this was my idea, and I thought I was ready. But I never knew it would be so hard.”
Sure, I was sleep-deprived. And clueless. But damn. That was hard?
I had no idea.
Soothing a bawling baby is one thing, but a tantrumming teenager? Please. And it may not be easy, but yes, I can scrounge up a decent meal while traveling with toddlers. But I don’t know where to begin to comfort a heartbroken teen. And I’m ill-prepared to exert my influence on people as articulate as Son and Darling Daughter have become.
I can only hope and pray that all the energy devoted to worrying about naptimes and pacifiers and potty-training, made me better equipped to address curfews and less-than-ideal-grades and hurt feelings and not making the team. That somehow, when the skinny envelope arrives instead of the fat one, when “he/she” says “no” to the dance invitation, when everyone else’s mom says “yes,” but I stubbornly cling to “no,” that I’ll have some worthwhile guidance to provide.
Which is all to say that, 15 Mothers’ Days later, I still don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not sure any Mom does.
The proof will be in the person. Or, in my case, the people – the people Son and Darling Daughter become and the people whose lives they touch.
Until then, I keep trying and worrying and watching and guiding and planning. And, of course, cooking.
This marinara sauce is the perfect thing to cook when worrying and watching and planning. I try to keep some in the freezer year ‘round, to serve with meatballs, to spread over pizza, to use in the ziti DD adores. Even Son, who doesn’t usually care for red sauce will eat this one, because (thanks to an immersion blender), there are no telltale “chunks.”
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
20-24 baby carrots (or 2-3 large carrots), chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3, 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon (or more, to taste) fresh ground pepper
1 cup dry red wine
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven with a lid, heat oil over medium high heat until rippling. Stir in onion, sautéing until translucent. Stir in celery and carrots. Continue sautéing until vegetables are soft and slightly browned. Stir in garlic and sauté another 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant. Stir in remaining ingredients, bring to boil, and then, reduce to simmer. Simmer, lidded, for 1 ½ - 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When fully cooked, use an immersion blender (carefully) to smooth out the “chunks.” (Optionally, give sauce a whirl – in batches – in a blender or food processor.) Adjust seasoning and freeze in two cup containers.