Someone once said that only when we have children do we forgive our parents. With regards to family, that’s the wisest thing I’ve ever heard. (That and “It will either work out, or it won’t,” but that’s a blog for another time.)
Society gleefully vacillates between vilifying mothers and idolizing them. We either blame them for all our neuroses (When I was four she wouldn’t buy me a Joan Jett Barbie when all the other girls had one!) or we think being a mom will solve all our problems.
Our seventeen year old occasionally regales me with stories about the girls at her school and their ambition to get married and have kids, though not necessarily in that order. “Pregnant and Sixteen” happily glorifies that questionable goal. “Teen Mom” picks up the baton and runs with it. I’m not preaching sin and damnation here folks, just a dose of reality. Is motherhood really a woman’s ticket to glory, social approval and undying love?
Don’t get me wrong, as the mother of three, I’m totally on board with being sainted. Mother’s Day is my favorite pseudo holiday and I gleefully claim the entire weekend as “homage to mom” time. At the same time, I very consciously teach my kids that having babies does not have to be their life’s calling.
Why would I break with tradition so drastically? (I do live in the South, after all.) Because not everyone who has a baby should be a mom, for one thing. Conscientious parenting is hard work. It takes a steady supply of money, plus boatloads of energy, determination and vitamins just so you can hold your own. You give up a lot, too, like seeing movies when they’re in the theatre, spontaneous trips out of town for the weekend, and new cars (see comment about money).
Children also aren’t born innocent angels, like everyone pretends they are. Parents quickly discover this at about eighteen months, I promise you. No, my dears, kids come into this world self-centered barbarians and you spend the next twenty years urging them along toward being civilized. Humans are not by nature interested in thinking of others and working cooperatively. Sorry to disappoint.
Parenthood is sleepless nights, catching vomit in your hands (Had to save my own mother’s Persian rug.) and regularly unstopping overflowing toilets. A host of other bothersome, tiring, and aggravating events assail you from morning until night, and that’s on a good day. Having children is NOT for the faint of heart.
But…it is also cuddling a sleepy little person who smells like baby soap and knows you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s watching your son be an Oompa Loompa in the school play and hearing him proudly sing his one line about Siamese cats. It’s sitting at the dinner table laughing so hard your stomach muscles cramp up because your twelve-year old falls out of her chair laughing over something her sister said, and then your son makes the movie cliche cat sound while the kid on the floor lifts her hand into the air and states “I’m okay!”
All of the above (both good and bad) has happened to us in this adventure my husband and I call parenting. We alternate between wanting to run away and warmly sharing stories about how proud we are of the kids as we settle down for the night.
The good, the bad and the ugly, that’s motherhood. Hell, folks, that’s family. And family is everything.
Never doubt it.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you — moms, dads and kids. We’re in this together, my friends. Always remember that. This weekend, remind yourself that all of us are doing the best we can. Forgive your parents, forgive yourself, and treasure what you have.