Thursday, May 10, 2012
Happy Mother's Day
As far as motherhood goes, I am relatively inexperienced. I only have two children, the oldest of whom just turned four. I frequently feel inadequate and flummoxed by the parenting challenges that arise, and no matter how many books I read or websites I scan or magazines I research, I pretty much feel like I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time.
Instinctively, whenever I need help, I turn to my mother. Even as an adult, even as a parent, I turn to my own mother for support and encouragement and wisdom. And she always has it for me. My mother is a remarkable woman in so many ways, not the least of which is her own inability to recognize this.
One lesson I have definitely learned as a parent, however, is that you work very very very hard and get absolutely no recognition for it. There isn't a cheering squad screaming and shaking their pompoms at you as you get up for the umpteenth time to respond to your newborn's cries at night. There isn't a fancy dinner and an award every time you take a deep breath and hold your temper instead of screaming at your exasperating, unreasonable, tantruming toddler. There isn't a boss handing out a stellar performance review and a fat bonus every time you pack their lunches, do their laundry, buy their clothes and food and books and toys, take them to the next class, give them a bath, set boundaries about tv and snacks and hitting and spitting and kicking and bedtimes, take them to the doctor, arrange a playdate, research summer camps, send out their birthday invitations, or kiss the boo-boo.
There should be.
So Mom...here's what I remember, a few of the moments from my life for which you deserved a trophy and a bonus and a cheering squad and more.
I remember sitting at the dinner table, so young I can barely see over the top. I feel sick to my stomach, but I want to sit at the table with the grownups so much that I don't say anything. Suddenly, I vomit violently all over everything -- my plate, the table, my clothes, the floor. I am scared and surprised and appalled all at once. Mostly, I feel guilty and ashamed. I remember my mother by my side in an instant, cleaning up, comforting me. I apologize for the mess and she hugs me and assures me everything is ok, that it's not my fault. She is so kind and loving and I feel taken care of and safe.
I remember being in preschool, around 4 years old, and it's my birthday. My mother makes homemade cupcakes to take in for the class. She lets me lick the bowl. She lets me help frost the cupcakes. I think they are done, but she pulls out lollipops and sticks one in the center of each cupcakes, which would never have occurred to me, but which seems like the best idea in the history of the world: lollipops and cupcakes! THEN she proceeds to cut out contructions paper petals and leaves and ~ voila ~ the lollipops become adorable flowers. I am dumbfounded. I have never seen such genius. I am in awe of my mother. I feel so special when I walk into my class with these cupcakes with my mother by my side. I am more proud of my mother than the cupcakes.
I remember constantly badgering my parents for more dessert after dinner. Wheedling for another cookie, begging for another scoop of ice cream. Finally, one night, my mother simply says, "Ok." Confused, I pause, and then echo, "Ok?" She nods and says, "Yes. Tonight, you may have any dessert you like, and as much of it as you like." I'm afraid to breathe. This is too good to be true. I proceed to eat almost an entire bag of cookies, several bowls of chocolate ice cream, some leftover candy, and all but mainlined the sugar bowl. I ate until I was so stuffed I couldn't force another bite past my lips. I couldn't believe the freedom and indulgence and control I had been given. It was glorious. For about 30 minutes. Then the stomach ache set in. And it got worse. And worse, and worse. I began to worry and complained of it to my mother. She nodded, sympathetically, and gently explained it was because of all the sweets I had eaten. I was miserable the rest of the night with stomach pain, but I understood to my bones that she had been setting limits on dessert to keep me healthy, not to deny me something I wanted. I never argued about dessert again.
I remember coming back from my junior year abroad, returning to my university just days before classes began. I remember being jetlagged and exhausted and trying to muster the inner reserves to face unpacking and setting up my apartment. I walked in...and it was done. Everything unpacked, all the furniture moved in, clothes in the closet, books on the shelves, dishes washed and put away. Completely done, from start to finish. I was shocked, and so grateful I could have cried. I needed this help, a leg up when I was tired and transitioning, and my mother saw that and without saying a word, took care of me.
I remember the times I needed a little help financially and she was there, no guilt attached. I remember the endless dance classes she paid for and drove me to, the costumes and shoes she purchased, the recitals she sat through. I remember the way she chronicled every birthday and Christmas and school event, putting together albums so I can remember those important moments too.
I remember the times she made mistakes, made the wrong choice, let me down. Not because those moments scarred me, but because in those moments she showed me it's ok to be human, that healthy relationships involve mistakes and forgiveness. She showed me how to take ownership for your failures and how to atone for them. She showed me that someone can be mad at you and not leave you. That someone can love you even when you are at your worst. That it's not about being perfect, but about being honest and kind and loving.
I remember all this and a lifetime more. If I can be even a fraction of the mother to my children that my mother was to me, they will be blessed.
Today Mom, I wish I could give you a cheering squad, a fancy trophy, and a huge bonus. I hope you will take this little corner of recognition instead, and all of my love and admiration.
Happy Mother's Day.