So let me tell you a little secret: My Mom wasn’t perfect.
As a person and as a mother, she had imperfections, flaws, problems. She really did.
Strangely, I find freedom in reflecting on that.
I’ve said here before that I long every day to be able to go to her and ask her questions about life, about being a mother… It is so hard to be in the beginning of the journey of motherhood and not be able to share it with her. It is so hard to not have her to lean on and to advise and to drive me crazy. I would give anything to see her tickle Little Miss, or to have her send her presents and cards. I positively ache at the thought that she will never, ever hold Ingrid in her arms and smell her baby smell. I so wish that I could have seen her playing with my girls, talking girl-talk with my girls, teaching her things that only SHE really could. I’d even give anything to have her purse her lips in that way she could and give her unsolicited opinion of something I’m doing as a mother. I just don’t have any of that.
But what I do have are memories of her as my mother.
My Mom was no June Cleaver or Martha Stewart or Mrs. Brady. I didn’t come home from school to cookies and milk every day. Sometimes, instead of Mom cooking up a 4 course meal, she just made Hamburger Helper. She lost her temper. I don’t remember her down on the floor playing with me a lot. Sometimes there were cobwebs in our house. We argued all the way through my early adolescence. Sometimes she swore. In fact one of her favorite ways to advise me was to ‘tell ’em to ‘F off!’ She would sit down and eat junk food in large quantities in front of me (and sometimes with me).
She wasn’t perfect.
And you know what? All of those things are some of my favorite things about her.
There is this trend in parenting today (and maybe it’s not just today, but I do think that there is a heightened sense and a strange psycho-babble about it all now) to place great emphasis on ‘getting it all right’ so as not to screw up your kid. You can see this in the multitudes of ways that women judge one another when it comes to parenting. You cannot make a decision as a parent without knowing that someone out there will look down their nose.
In the church there is even this sense of making June Cleaver an Idol. Women feel that they are called to live up to these…. amazingly high standards. Never feed your kid junk food or they’ll be obese. Play with your kids for X amount of time or else they won’t know you love them. Don’t buy things with preservatives. Don’t use formula. Don’t breastfeed in public (now there’s a real catch-22). Don’t spank. Don’t spare the rod. Act in only the most pulled-together manner in front of your children or else you will cause them to be emotionally scarred.
My Aunt Darlene has been kind enough to share some particularly meaningful insights with me since my Mom died. She told me that before she and Dad were even expecting me that Mom had confided in her that she didn’t think she’d be a good mother. She told her on an outing with ‘the nieces and nephews’ around before me that she didn’t know what to do with kids. When she was pregnant with me, Dar said she was nervous and jittery and sure she was going to get it all wrong.
If I think about it, and look at things closely enough, I can see traces of that fear in her. Mom carried herself with incredible poise, and confidence, but she could underestimate herself to a very large degree.
What she taught me though is that I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to get it all right. *I* have only a limited amount of control over how Little Miss and Ingrid are going to turn out anyway. They are their own people. God designed them uniquely. They are not mini-Vals or even cardboard cut-outs of a ‘kid mold’ that the June Cleavers of the world believe children to be. There are a huge number of X-factors in parenting. Some of it is circumstances, some of it is luck, and all of it requires an immense trust that even though we as parents are feeble messed up people that God will hold our children in the palm of His hand.
I have days where it is a struggle to want to get down on the floor with Little Miss and play for more than a few moments at a time (especially being this pregnant–YOU try getting up off the floor with a huge belly and joints all relaxing and stretching out). I lose my patience…. I don’t always keep a perky happy but somehow still stern and disciplinarian voice. Sometimes I skim through blogs, or sneak in a chapter or two in a book when I should be paying attention to Little Miss. In the last two years, Little Miss has seen me cry many times. Life has been tearful at times. Sometimes, being a Mommy has made me tearful. We’re having leftover Hamburger Helper for supper tonight–Why? Because when Husband isn’t home I go for the ‘easy, mindless’ meals to cook and hope fore leftovers. I let Little Miss eat Easter candy, and she’s already eaten Fruit Loops, and Lucky Charms, and some other varieties of ‘sugary cereals’ that I see other Mom’s turn up their noses to.
I’m not perfect either….. Far, far from it.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not a good Mom. I know that because I can’t imagine having a better mother than mine, and she was far from perfect.
She showed through example not only how to be loving and maternal and how to teach values and instill convictions, but she also showed me that it’s ok to live a little, it’s ok to have fun. It’s ok to be a human being. There is such freedom in that.
So I look at my Mom and how she mothered me, and I think there just might be hope for me after all. I am no June Cleaver or Martha Stewart myself. I never will be. But I think by God’s grace, and the humor and grit and sense of life my Mom gave me, I can be the kind of mother that my girls will look back at and be glad they had.
I sure hope so anyway.