Some days, I wonder what my kids will remember.
I’ve been slowly making my way through the book No Ordinary Time, about FDR & Eleanor during World War II, the way the home front and the war efforts impacted each other, and their family. It turns out that Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t always very good with her kids. She could be severe, easily angered, or she could be very sweet and loving.
This sounds like me. And I wonder which part my kids are going to remember in the long run. Will they remember Mommy pounding away at the computer keyboard, or will they remember Mommy sitting on the couch looking at scrapbooks with them? Will they remember me getting angry with their many spillages, breakages and other foibles, or will they remember the silly voices I do when reading Peter and the Wolf and The Very Hungry Caterpillar?
Thoughts like this can make a person crazy. Question yourself at every turn.
I got a phone call day before yesterday from an old friend, to whom I talk infrequently. At the end of the conversation, she said out of nowhere, “You’re a good mom. I know what kind of mom you are. You’re a good one.”
People—women especially—can be pretty catty to each other. Every so often a mom blogger recognizes this and takes the time to send out a blanket statement to her readership that says, You are a good mother! I always get a little uncomfortable with these general praises. How do we really know? What a person says online is only a snapshot of the whole picture. It doesn’t really mean anything to me when someone tries to issue general praise. In fact, even when a person says the same thing directly to me, I tend to hesitate to accept it. After all, I know how much I don’t do, how often I fall short of my own expectations, let alone anyone else’s.
Such was my gut reaction when my friend said to me, “You’re a good mom. I know what kind of mom you are. You’re a good one.”
As the day went on, some of the inner wrestling relaxed, as if the warring bits of myself had shaken hands across the battle lines. I didn’t get mad at the kids (much). I didn’t rush through routines. I spent time with the kids, enjoyed them, laughed with them. And the effect didn’t wear off, either; through the next day, there was less conflict and more tranquility in the house.
I’m still wrestling with a bit of a sense of disconnectedness in my work. And I know the blush of this…whatever it is…will wear off. In fact, it already has. Nicholas hauled my pregnant bum out of bed four times before 12:40a.m.last night for no good reason at all (moms, you know how much effort it takes to get out of bed in the third trimester!), and I was so mad I had trouble getting back to sleep.
But I can no longer turn my nose up at the affirmations we are capable of giving each other. Because they do make a difference.
Who can you build up today?
Kathleen, your kids will remember both and find goodness in both. My mom had gifts as an artist that she never pursued to any extent. I remember her doing textile painting on guest towels when I was about six or younger. I also remember her sitting on the sofa with my brother on one side and me on the other reading to us. We were quite small. I loved those moments and remember begging her to read to us. Don’t worry. Some day they’ll appreciate your discipline, too.
Being a good mother and a perfect mother are not the same thing…and if you ask me a good mother is better. I spent some good quality time with my mom on long drives these past two Saturdays, and I am likely to remember those times as just as easily as I remember the time my parents failed to communicate who would come home to meet us kids after school and we were too young to be home alone (strangely, the door was unlocked so we just let ourselves in). I don’t think that makes either of my parents less good. It just makes them human. I can recreate in my head exactly what it sounds like when one of my parents gets mad, but I also know how much it hurts when they’re disappointed in me. So what does that tell you? It tells me that they were the best parents they could be. That’s what you are. You are the best mom you can be. God made you a mother because he knew you would be a good one. (As a friend pointed out recently, with everything God made in Genesis, he said “it was good”. God created you and then said “it’s good”.)