This article originally appeared in The Denver Post on May 10, 2012
By: Robin Kniech, Denver City Councilwoman At-Large
Typically when my name graces the pages of this paper, it’s for a policy comment from my seat on Denver’s City Council. Or I’m named in political coverage with the description “the first openly gay member of the City Council.”
The rest of my title is far more mundane, yet the most important of all: mom.
One’s own life is always utterly normal to oneself, but combining any two of my three titles can make for interesting conversation with others. People wonder what it’s like being an elected official and the mom of a preschool-age son, or being a lesbian mom. This Mother’s Day, I cherish the beauty, humility and power of this ordinary role that trumps all others as I reflect on my perspective before I was a mom and what parenting has taught me.
Before I was a mom, I used to wonder why people couldn’t just wipe their kids’ noses. I never imagined myself sleeping in a toddler bed while my son lay sprawled across my half of our queen bed.
Before I was a mom, I never imagined I would do anything as ridiculous as blow-dry a toilet seat to overcome my potty-training son’s protests that the seat was “too cold to sit on.”
Before I was a mom, I never thought about something as simple as changing the clocks twice a year as a life-altering event. And I never really had reason to learn to sleep with a pillow over my head as I greedily clung to my turn to sleep past 5 a.m. while my partner entertained the loudest elephant I have ever heard.
Before I was a mom, I had never felt the grip of fear I faced upon finding my unresponsive infant lying in his own vomit. Or the sheer relief to learn that he only had a common virus and we had dodged the bullet of any serious illness.
Before I was an elected official, I never imagined how quickly I would fold to my son’s manipulations to get out of a political event he didn’t want to attend. Until one day, after gently redirecting him, my fingertips barely touching his 2-year-old back, he promptly yelled at the top of his lungs, “Stop hitting me, mama!”
Before I was a mom, I never understood how you could so desperately look forward to putting a child to sleep, but an hour later miss him so badly that you would risk everything to sneak in and stare.
Before I was a mom, I never knew the deep and abiding gratitude one could feel for a child-care provider willing to help love and care for your son on the days you are caring for a city. And before I was an elected official, I never felt more motivated to solve our budget crisis so we can stop making cuts to low-income child care.
Before I was a mom, I never thought about how strange it would feel to have an adoption agent inspecting our home to determine if the partner who had planned our son, loved him from birth, and committed her life to raising him no matter what, was “fit” for a state-sanctioned second-parent adoption. Or how glad I would be to live in Colorado where this right, at least, was available.
Before I was a mom, I thought it was simply a cliché to say that you loved someone so much you think your heart could burst. Now I know.
Gay or straight, parenting isn’t for everyone. And you don’t have to be an elected official or even a parent to fret over the future of our children. But for all of us who have chosen this path this Mother’s Day, the fundamental human condition of parenting, with all its triumphs and its tragedies, can unite us all.
Author Robin Kniech
Robin Kniech is an at-large member of the Denver City Council. She and her partner have a 3-year old son, whom you will recognize by his monkey pajamas and rubber Spider-Man boots if you ever see them at the grocery store.