My Dad used to say with a great deal of disdain, “Anybody can procreate.” The underlying meaning, of course, was that very few could raise children correctly. All I really ever wanted to be was a Mother. More than an archeologist, disc jockey, journalist, lawyer, nursing home administrator, speech therapist, French teacher, occupational therapist, florist or anything else – I have always “just” yearned to be a Mom – a really good one.
I always knew one absolute truth about Motherhood: If I was going to model my maternal style on my own Mother’s legacy, I had big shoes to fill. She managed to keep a clean house and serve three delicious squares every single day for 7 children (we won’t talk about emotional upheaval in between!).
Instead of absolute “perfection,” I have always aimed for a more realistic goal in my Mothering: meeting my child where she or he was and lifting the goodness where I saw it.
In other words, I have been more of a “let love and joy lead”kind of Mom (similar to my vision of the Divine – never harsh or judgmental, always searching for the Light).
Now in their teens, I see my 2 teenagers’ experience of my Motherhood a little more objectively, and the 3 strengths and 7 flaws are glaringly obvious. Here are the 7 things “good Moms” excel at that I really bombed:
- Time Management Although we lived right across the street from the Library, my kids were always late to Story Time.
- Potty Training Instead of motivational charts, I employed begging and pleading, which never worked. My daughter begged me to make her a chore chart when she was about 6 and, out of frustration, she ended up making her own!
- Volunteering I was my daughter’s Daisy Troop leader and those poor little girls never earned badges, it was just too much; I volunteered in my son’s kindergarten class and total mayhem ensued and I had to be rescued by the School Social Worker.
- Animals and Kids I thought the kids should have a puppy after my husband’s faithful and well trained Labrador passed away; Tango, the Boxer, made our lives wilder and more unpredictable than ever – if we weren’t searching for her with slices of cheese to encourage a timely and safe return home, I was scolding her for ruining a new rug or bringing home cow skulls.
- Singing No, not ever did my kids enjoy singing with Mommy. Instead, they covered their ears and pleaded, “No!!!!!!,” but when Daddy started singing, they quickly became calm and content.
- Nursing When my kids were sick, they wanted their Dad, the calm and steady soul.
- Cooking One time, a culinary flop was so embarrassing, my 10-year-old daughter got up from the table and started making omelets for our guests. When I burned the bat-shaped cookies my son wanted to take to school for Halloween, he hugged me and said “Mom, I don’t know anybody who could have done better.”
In spite of these 7 maternal failings, I think my kids learned alot from their experiences! Fortunately, I managed to get 3 things right, and I think that is going to be enough to seal their future adult lives as positive and productive:
- Compassion I am literally beaming with pride even today. When I visit their High School, I am almost always approached by a special needs student who proudly introduces him or herself as my son or daughter’s “FRIEND.” Somehow, I got this right! To be kind to the vulnerable and marginalized is not always second nature, and I guess, through living with me, my kids learned to practice (without knowing it) compassion. THIS and only THIS was my main goal as a Mom, and this job is complete. Thank you, God!
- Acceptance/Inclusion There were times my kids were invited to do “yucky” things but instead of avoiding them, both my son and daughter would usually go and then come home and innocently share something amazing with me. Like the time my son was the only child who attended an unpopular boy’s birthday party and he came home and said, “Mom, did you know you can be 7 years old and STILL in kindergarten?!”. Or many times I observed my daughter sweetly ask a newcomer something about themselves, with genuine interest and warmth.
- Celebrate I may have missed a few “learning opportunities” in the positive discipline arena while my children were growing up, but what they did experience alot of was celebrations of all kinds: the dog’s birthday; the first day the Christmas lights were on in our local park; the joint 5th and 50th birthday party of my husband and our son with the bouncy house; picnics and craft parties with Big Brothers Big Sisters; going to the movies with their cousins; giving Grandma and Grandpa gifts they bought at a truck stop on Interstate 70; taking the first rose that bloomed in our garden to a teacher; sitting on the front porch with our friend with Down Syndrome and eating a Sonic corn dog. Building moments to celebrate love, life and joy have been regular parts of my 2 kids’ upbringing, and I already see my daughter cultivating that kind of funloving, life-embracing attitude with her friends.
One thing I know for sure, when we did things at our house, we did them with GUSTO, and for that, I am proud. I hope my 7 shortcomings are forgiven and that my teenagers continue to move forward in life with open hearts and loving attitudes! We can’t all be champion chart makers…..