Today I provide the guest writing prompt at storyaday.org. This site is considered by Writer’s Digest to be one of the “101 Best Websites for Writers” so take a look at https://storyaday.org/ to learn how you can mine your memories for writing gold.
For the first time I feel old and I know that Mother’s Day is doing it because I can see that my role as mother is diminishing. I have a son out in the world fully independent for Pete’s sake!
I have an embarrassment of wealth, joy that is, at what God has handed me in three great kids who are healthy and happy and here with me. We are skyping to be together today but will see each other for real next week for my eldest’s college graduation, and I am overcome with joy at the thought of all that. It’s too sweet to accept this gift from God. Such joy I cannot truly deserve. To get to see the graduations, to get to see all the proms, and to get to see all the successes of my almost-adult children is way more than I prayed God would give me.
When the kids were babies I prayed he’d let me live long enough to see them to the point where they’d at least remember me. When they passed that I wanted to live long enough so they’d remember my lessons, and after that I wanted to live long enough so they’d be able to make some of their own decisions, and after that it is all gravy – that we get to share even more of the joys of life together is making me more grateful than I can say.
I posted this a few years ago but not much has changed in terms of my teenage boy challenging me.
I just started in cataloging all the boys and men I’d ever dated. We were alone in the car with 90 minutes in front of us, just my teenage boy and myself, so I started in. I knew of no other way to impress upon him the concerns I had about his relationship with his current girlfriend. You don’t tell teenagers directly what you want because they in turn, in keeping with their job in life to separate from you after a childhood of deliberate bonding, reject it. So the next best thing is to open myself up and share my personal experiences.
Turns out my litany of boyfriends, and there were not that many really, seemed a little interesting. And I say that not because of anything my son said, instead it was because of what he didn’t say. He didn’t say a word. For over an hour he said nothing as I detailed the reasons why one guy was good and another not, from my perspective as as teen and young adult, back in the day. I explained about the one who dropped cigarette ash on my rug, the one who was a high school dropout but doted on me like I was a queen so I stayed with him for five years, the one who had tons of money and a Porsche but his friends didn’t like him, the one who couldn’t ever find time for me, and those that had only one thing on their minds. I told him the entire experience of meeting his father and how we developed our relationship and why I liked him better than the others even though at first it was not so clear. I told it all minus the sexy parts. And he remained silent. But I could tell he was listening, and he even had a few questions, particularly about his father and me. He said it was cool that Dad really liked me even though I wasn’t that sure at first. He liked that part. The tenacity of his father, in love. Hmmmm.
The point is I needed him to know that staying with a girl for years, because it is easier than breaking up, is not that great an idea, and why. I threw in some examples amidst the smokescreen.
A few months later he broke up with his girlfriend. I was surprised, that is, until he pointed out that it was me who told him to do it.
Yesterday my little friend, who is three months old, screamed bloody murder the entire time I held her. Last we visited I thought we were friends and she settled perfectly when I impressively walked her to the mirror to see the baby there. Then again she settled when I showed her my cool clock that plays music and splits into fractions that roll and turn and do acrobatics every hour (a weird modern cuckoo clock-ish kind of thing). But yesterday the minute her mom headed to the bathroom her little head swiveled and she panicked at the vision. Her world was ending and I could see the sudden separation was too much for her. As soon as her mom took her back and told her everything was great she agreed and laughed and didn’t care at all that she’d just snubbed me!
So, funny thing, her mom asked me today if I might visit next week and stay with the babe while she exits some more. We’ll try a bottle which the little one has resolutely announced is not for her, and we will enjoy being together while mom is away. It is all in preparation for her mother’s return to work in just a few weeks and for her to be able to be with others in her mom’s absence.
It is pressure on the family to have to do this. To have to get her to take a bottle, and to go to stranger-like people (she’s known me her whole life!) and to have to be without mom during ten hours of the day. But so it is, and it isn’t necessarily so bad. Life if full of pressures and these are not terrible.
I had the luxury of staying home with my kids and wallowing in every wonderful and miraculous thing they did for their entire childhoods, and I loved it. Seeing the separation between mom and babe so early, and seeing the need or desire to be at work every day instead is a curiosity to me since I did it differently. But it is all good and I am thrilled to be part of the team helping this little girl learn about her world and how it is. Glad to help.
I mean, really, you spring from the body of another person to get here, so it seems impossible that that person, your mother, would not be profoundly important. Much goes on in utero before we are born that binds us together.
So my mother died seven years ago this month. The phone rang and Dad told me Mom was dead. It had been a long road with Mom, her being so profoundly important and all. But it had been long because it never turned into what I dreamed it might be: a happy relationship. It just never did because Mom’s early life had been so hard she had no emotional space left by the time she had five kids to be available to anyone for anything besides the basics, like food and clothing and shelter. And she was quite good at those. But a meaningful relationship to treasure was not in the cards. I am sorry to still be bringing this up seven years later, or should I say, 55 years later, but it is that important.
I want mothers out there to know that the relationship you build with your children can be so much less than you think it is if you aren’t paying attention. And it can be so much more than you dream if you play fair and get honest about how you feel at any given moment.
That’s what I’ve learned about being a mom, that telling the truth about how I feel usually leads to a better day.
There is a reason my brothers and sister and I don’t trust each other today, as adults, and why none of us have any relationship with each other. It’s so inspiring for me, personally because now I dream of my own children being friends and supporting each other through life, and I am actively out here trying to make it happen.
My mom and dad raised all five of us kids in a remote location, a thousands-of-acres private estate dad was manager of, far from other humans. He was also the on-site dairy farmer and nearby harness race track manager, and later, in his free time, he became a lawyer.
With mom being an orphan she had no sisters or mother or aunts or anyone to talk to, and being physically isolated she wasn’t running into the neighbors who might commiserate about life with her. This, along with my father’s great need to be in ten places at once seven days a week, I believe, led her to use her five small children as a sounding board at times for her own problems in life.
Since there was not a lot of attention being handed out for which you might think we would all be vying, instead, I personally stood around hoping to hear Mom complain about one of my siblings, which she often did since she hadn’t really wanted five kids to begin with. The reason this was worthwhile was that with it came a fleeting moment during which I imagined that because Mom was unhappy with one of my sisters or brothers, she might by default like me. In those moments I felt a little important, momentarily, and I appreciated the shortcomings of my siblings. Now this may sound mighty extreme to your ears, but this is how it was.
Helping my children appreciate and love one another has not been a simple task for me. Saying my love out loud, acting out my love through kindness and patience have been the cornerstones of my effort. My case is extreme but it sure is handy for pointing out the easy way to spoil what has to be the more natural relationship between siblings. Teach your kids to love each other by modeling your love out loud. That way there’s no mistake how you feel. That way they may appreciate each other, too.
When my mother died I heard my brother say at her funeral that he appreciated her and all that she did, and I remember feeling surprised by that information. I hadn’t noticed him appreciating her along the way and so to hear him say it gave me pause. I asked myself how it is that he had these feelings about her yet I hadn’t seen evidence of it in the way he treated her. Same with my father. He had a funny way of showing his appreciation of his wife. This being Mother’s Day I got to thinking about all this again and considering for myself and my own family how we show our appreciation.
The answer is this: daily respect and consistent love expressed out loud and in our behavior.
If your children do not show you this on Mother’s Day, or any day for that matter, teach them to do it by doing it with them. Show your children respect daily by listening to them, believing them, and guiding them. Show them your love by speaking it out loud daily and by behaving in loving ways. If it isn’t working then maybe your modeling needs improvement. If you are unhappy with your skills as a parent find professional help to turn yourself into the kind of parent you want to be and then model for your kids the kind of person you want them to become.
This is the best way to have kids who show you their love on Mother’s Day and all the other days of the year.
My daughter and I watched the entire season of The Bachelor on television this Spring, and I am so excited about how it ended. It ended with a decent guy finding a decent girl, jilting a decent other girl who was quite classy in her reaction to being dismissed, seeking to learn more about herself and wishing the happy couple well, and thus highlighting the possibility that this junk TV show could serve to inform millions on how decent people behave. I was most impressed by the father of the bachelor who said he welcomed either of the two possible young ladies his son might select, and that he’d be that girl’s biggest advocate once she joined the family. The turmoil of having to pick a bride on national television, on a timeline, when two outstanding choices were at hand, was managed with prayer, the bachelor told us. Now prayer is a loaded term if you ask me, but I see it as a code word for any kind of soul searching, introspective, meditation or reverence that includes rationally considering many options and waiting to sense clarity after doing so. Argue with me if you want to on that, but that is how I am interpreting what the young man said.
I love the idea that possibly many households across America, mine included, will learn by watching what it is to be loving and kind. This family highlighted support for one another, and as one of the young women said, everyone knew what was going on and everyone was trying to help. In an impressive conversation we see the bachelor tell his mother he values her opinion and will weigh it, but more than anything he wishes for her support whatever he chooses to do. It was the model of loving civility and both of the girls he was considering looked at this family and were delighted at the prospect of joining such a seemingly healthy group of people.
Now who knows what the truth is. We do not know what goes on behind closed doors, or what miracles are generated through skilled editing, but regardless of the validity of the scenes with which we were presented, they represented to me a wholesomeness I wish for all families on earth.
When I was little and when my mother was mad at someone, which seemed to be often, she’d say, ‘they’ll see’, or even,’someday they’ll find out’, as if there would be a final day of reckoning. Don’t get me wrong, my mother had a hard life and being mad at folks was absolutely legitimate, if you ask me. But I got the impression, as a child, that there would eventually be a time to confront everyone who had been mean to her or hurt her, and then they’d learn the truth of the situation and be sorry and my mother would feel better. But I watched her life and I know for sure that that day did not come. My mother went to her grave not having said aloud the things that bothered her and that hurt her and held her back. She bit her tongue her whole life; she waited for a day that never came. I was disappointed when I realized that clarity never came for her. She never got to hear the other guys’ side of things or air her own grievances or say aloud her pains or unload her heavy chains. She carried around so much pain with her everywhere she went, and always with the idea that someday it would all be lifted and the truth would shine. But she spent her life essentially waiting to die, if you ask me, because by not saying aloud her truths, her honest feelings, messy as feelings can be, she lost out on a lot of living. If you ask me.
So, as much as I don’t like it either, I am living my life by confronting those who bother me, and addressing the issues of today, today. I would love to imagine that someday, instead, it all comes clear magically to anyone with whom I’ve had an issue, but I have witnessed it going another way. I am not counting on that. I am living now, while I am here, and saying what’s on my mind today and not waiting for some mythical day of reckoning.
So many of the things around my house used to be my mother’s, or my mother-in-law’s, my aunt’s, or my grandmother’s. I am talking about the heavy kitchen scissors I use every day that used to be in the utensils crock next to my mother’s stove back at home, and those great insulated drinking glasses with the colorful flower garden on the sides we got for my husband’s mother one year for Christmas, and the wrought-iron candelabra I gave my grandmother when I was so young, because she burned candles every day. All of these gifts grace my house and I use them every day, now, even though I bought them for others in the first place. They came back to me. When my folks died we cleaned out the house and everyone took back the things they had bought them using the logic that if we liked it in the first place we would like it still. Same with my husband’s family. Other pieces found their way back to me because in the collection of things left after my grandmother died, I spotted the fancy candle holder and had fond memories of Grandma using it.
These gifts, come back home to me and remind me that we are all here on loan. Our relationships are only for the moment we’re in them. I felt my folks would live forever, and even when I saw my grandmother getting old and knowing she would not last my whole life, I didn’t understand how the present I had with her then was going to become a dear memory later on. It felt like the gifts I gave at those times were forever. But surprise, forever ended, and now those gifts are on my shelves ‘forever’.
Our children are the same in that they are only on loan to us while we are here. I see as my kids move out into the world, college and beyond, that we had them in our home as children in need of us, constantly, only to become capable adults managing because we taught them. It seems like forever when babies are crying and bath and bedtime are here again, when there is no time for myself because kids need so much. When my body isn’t even my own because I share it with my offspring. But surprise, forever goes away.
Enjoy it now while it is here, and make great memories to look back on later.