There is an ugly purple and yellow bruise just below my right knee.  I got it trying to win a three-legged race with my eight year old son.  The “Olympics” that we were competing in were part of a mother/son activity at our church.  There had already been two heats of the race, both of which we came in behind the leaders.  My son’s competitive nature came out and he was determined we would win this final heat.  But, just like before, we fell behind some of the others.  Without warning, my son jumped on my hip (I think he thought we would be quicker if I just carried him across the finish line).  I wasn’t prepared for it and we went down.  Hard.  My knee smashed into the floor.

Yawlin, ever the competitor, extracted his leg from the rope around our legs and left me lying on the floor to race across the finish line.  He did apologize later when he saw me limping.  We went on to compete in more events and tied for last place!  We made sure to give each other a high five for effort.

A few days later I gingerly pulled my pant leg up to show my daughters the ugly bruise that was forming.  No sympathy for Mom here.  Instead, there was a round of high fives given to my son for “bruising up Mom.”  My daughters are athletes.  They wear their cuts and bruises like badges of honor.

“Check out my shin where that girl cleated me when she was sliding into third.”

“That’s cool.  Look at the bruise I got when the ball took a bad bounce.”

“Remember that time I got a fat lip when that girl elbowed me trying to go up for a basket?”

In their minds, the injuries received as they participate in the activities they love, cement their role as an athlete.  Injuries are to be expected if one participates in sports.

But are injuries supposed to be a part of being Mom?  There have been the occasional paper cuts, bumps, and bruises, like the doozy below my knee, but that doesn’t really cement my role as Mom.  I can still be a good mother without injuries.  I can still nurture my children without being in pain. 

Mom’s can get injured in other ways.  Any time one of my kids is hurting, I hurt along with them and I find myself searching for ways to take away their pain.  And there have been times that my ego has been bruised, my feelings have been hurt, and I have been cut down to size.  All part of being Mom.  Kids are great at keeping you humble. 

But, I don’t want to claim injuries or perceived hurts or even secret sacrifices I’ve made as the badges of honor for motherhood.  There are other “badges” I wear proudly as Mom.  I wear the fuzzy slippers my kids gave me the first Christmas after the divorce.  They shopped secretly for them and were so proud of themselves.  They’d made sure Mom had something under the tree.  I openly wear the handmade jewelry created over the years, even though the necklaces and bracelets are starting to be stretched out.  When they were younger my daughters created some funky hairdos for me.  I wore them with a smile.

Can it be considered a badge of honor when your child plants a big kiss on your cheek, in front of her friends?  How about when your tough son excitedly gives you a hug when you show up to volunteer in his classroom?  Isn’t it a badge of honor whenever your child acknowledges you in front of their peers?

The bruise on my knee will eventually go away.  The memories of competing together in silly made-up olympic events will remain.  Participating in activities with our children, no matter how embarrassing it may be for us, is what cements our role as parent.

Mom.  Mother.  Mama.  Mommy.  I guess the biggest badge of honor is the title itself.