I had my first inkling of what motherhood would be like just minutes after giving birth to my son. What had been a long night and day was finally over and, suddenly, I found myself alone, shaking and cold, on the delivery table. Everybody–Doug, the doctor, the nurses–had whisked away with the baby, somewhere else, and simply left me there. The spotlight had moved on from me, to my son. Two years later, it happened again with my daughter.
I think the best parents realize this early on. While we may occasionally commandeer the spotlight in our own lives, for our own achievements, the spotlights in our children’s lives belong solely on them.
Crappy parents, like those you hear spewing vitriol from the sidelines of soccer games, still try to step into their child’s spotlight; sometimes even pushing them out of it to bask in the stolen glow. Good parents encourage their children to do their best and be ready and prepared for what life brings, whether it occurs backstage or in front of an audience. I try my best to be one of these good parents, one of these best moms, though I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel like I’ve failed just about as much as I’ve succeeded.
I’ve been blessed to have my own wonderful mother as an example. Although I can be critical of her occasional failing, I would be hugely remiss if I didn’t mention her many parenting successes. After all, how easy can it be to raise four children, with an age spread of only 6 1/2 years from the oldest to the youngest? The two youngest–my brother and I–are only 9 1/2 months apart (A fact that my parents sometimes told people and then just left it there hanging to see their reaction. The truth is that I came along nine months after his adoption, and I was two weeks early, so do your own math.), so it was tantamount to raising twins.
Mom went back to work (as a high school math teacher, and by math I mean calculus, algebra, trigonometry–all of the ones that make me shudder) when I was 7. Dad commuted, so he got home late and we didn’t see much of him on the weekdays. Mom was the one who single parented during the week (and many weekends, when Dad was fixing things around the house and working in his workshop in the basement), making dinner, ferrying us to various activities, tucking us in, and then sitting down into the wee hours to grade school papers and tests. We had a lot of chores to help out, but I’m sure there were many things she had to still do and likely re-do.
Tired as she must have been, Mom helped give us opportunities for our spotlights to shine. She started a Brownie troop when there wasn’t one and I wanted to be a Brownie. She helped with the League of Women Voters, showing us how important is was for all of us to vote. She
forced us dropped us at early-morning swim team practice until we were old enough to ride our bicycles there. She brought us to and from friend’s houses. She made cookies and cupcakes for our birthdays at school, and hand-sewn party favors for our birthdays at home. My mom really was uber Mom, and she never asked for recognition for it.
As I grow and get further into this Mom role, I realize just how petty some of my grievances were. I bothered my mom for years about the lack of a baby album for me. My oldest sister has two books; my other sister has one. My brother has about half of a photo album, while mine has about six pages of photos. The simple truth is that Mom had less and less “free” time the more children she had. As the youngest, I took it as an insult. Now that I have two of my own, with nary a completed baby photo album between them, I completely understand. And I apologized to my mother for it years ago.
There are days that I call her up and just say, “You never warned me about days like this,” and she just laughs. There are other days I call just to make her laugh over some hysterical thing that one or both of my kids did or said. Motherhood is difficult. Motherhood is amazing. I’m lucky to have had a great role model.
This past week’s trip to Atlanta with my mom was beyond special, and I’ll forever be grateful that the opportunity arose. Seeing her interact with her cousin, who is the closest thing she’s ever had to a sister, was simply wonderful. Having the opportunity to make her proud with my writing, and watching her happily and glowingly deflect the attention and shine the spotlight back on me was priceless; a memory beyond compare.
I am blessed to have her in my life. I am blessed to have her as my Mom.
I only hope I do as good a job with my own two kids. Time will tell, but I feel pretty good about it. After all, I had a great teacher. 💖