My mother was 20 when I, her third child, was born. I don’t know that I have ever spoken of expectations versus reality with her, but I can’t help but think she had a few days that felt like cold water had been thrown in her face. She has told my children that I was a “willful” child, which might be code for brat-not really sure. But I think my mother’s will must have been iron clad to never flinch in the face of bone crushing poverty, limited possibilities and no clear path to a better life. She and my father escaped the grips of poverty, however, and went on to make a nice life for themselves and their 5 children. It was a different time and not so much time was devoted to self reflection and how folks were “feeling” about things-they were too busy surviving.
My two oldest sons were born 20 months apart and I was young and feeling overwhelmed. I asked my mother how she got us to go to bed at bedtime. She seemed puzzled by the question-“we just went to bed,” she finally answered. “We” was the key word-our little home was in the country and when it got dark, it got really dark with no city lights to cast a glow everywhere. Too dark to do much by the kerosene lamps we used for light at night-the family went to bed-there was no tv blaring in the next room, no vacuum running, washing machine going, a dryer tumbling loudly to distract a child from the task at hand-falling asleep. Simple solution from a simpler time.
I will always admire and respect my mother for her simple wisdom. I think she always had a realistic expectation of her capacity as a mother. We are bombarded with society’s expectation of super mom, blurring the lines of reality and perception for mothers trying to function at their highest level. In my day it was the “kool-aid” mom-not sure what that label is today-but it is a marketing ploy-a slippery slope fraught with peril.
My nest is empty but my mother’s heart is the same as it was 45 years ago when I first gazed into the eyes of my first child. I prayed then, and often now, that my love for them will compensate for any shortcoming I have as a mother-that my earnest desire to teach them how to give and accept love will overcome any weakness I have in parenting skills. I hope your Mother’s Day is one of quiet satisfaction that you are giving, doing and offering your best to your children-avoid the pitfall of judging yourselves harshly if your perception of perfection doesn’t line up with your reality. And remember, that sometimes the problem can be solved by just going to bed when it gets dark.