When my oldest turned 18 months old she qualified to attend the toddler class each Sunday for 2 hours at church. That was really my first experience with understanding-- and accepting-- that others would be teaching things to my kids.
It’s silly to think about. Of COURSE others will teach my kids. But it can still be a startling realization, a kind of a recovering from a not-my-kid thing on a very elementary level.
Mother’s Day isn’t easy for a lot of people for a lot of reasons, many centered on expectations. For me, it’s been a day when a huge mirror is placed in front of me, forcing me to see what I’m doing. It hasn’t ever felt like a healthy evaluation, but more of an imposed critique while being forced to listen to stories of Angel Mothers Who Never Raised Their Voices and stuff like that.
I’ve loved being a mom; it was the main thing I wanted to be since I was very young. But Nobody’s Perfect is more than a saying on a Garfield poster (ask your parents). And no one needs help feeling bad about themselves.
So much about motherhood isn’t talked about regularly, or in productive ways. I certainly don’t know all there is to know-- and I have so, so very much more to learn-- but I know more than I thought I would 18 years ago as a new mom.
I’ve learned about different personalities and tempers and emotions; diapers and hygiene and puberty; social triumphs and heartbreaks. Kids eat crayons. They break a dozen eggs on the floor just to see what happens. They get in fights at school. They have best friends and lose best friends. They lie. They love. They learn. They succeed. They question. They bully and get bullied. They thrive. They struggle. They get eating disorders. They move out.
Motherhood evolves, as it should. Kids growing up and becoming more independent? That’s not a shame, it’s not a disappointment. That’s how it’s supposed to go, and that’s how it WILL go, so getting on board with that idea has been something I’ve done my best to be conscious of and work on doing well.
Motherhood, I think, needs to be, in its approach, fluid...not as a way of giving up, but as a way of holding on.
You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘Be the kind of adult you needed as a kid.’ I remember being a teenager and prioritizing that for my future. I’m certain I’ve forgotten much of what it’s like to be a kid-- and today is eons away from what it was Back In My Day-- but I’ve held on to the idea of needing to be an advocate for kids.
When I got divorced, I realized my oldest was the same age-- as in, same number of days old, within just weeks-- as I was when my parents got divorced. I took note.
I’m someone who prays. I pray daily. And I pray for people I love to be supported and feel loved, to know they are loved.
Many people are included in my prayers by name, and the past several months have seen a solid pattern in the names I include. Sydney, Quinn, Clara, Emma, Taylor, Rae, Jensen, Andrew, Brittany, and Avrey.
And Betsy, Cindi, and Daneen.
Some of those names are those of my kids. And some of those names are those of my husband’s kids. And some of those names are those of the other moms of all those kids. I pray for all of them. I think of all of them. I want the best for all of them.
I’m a mother who shares kids with other mothers. All these kids are at such different ages and stages, being fluid within Motherhood is critical to being able to know how to best relate with each.
My kids’ stepmom loves our kids, and she brings a lifetime of her own experience to teach them what she can, just like I do.
I love my husband’s kids, and I know I’m not their mom-- they’ve got a mom who loves them. My own dad never remarried, so I’m unfamiliar with that aspect of what they’re experiencing. My goal right now is let them know in any ways I can that I love their dad, and I love them, and their dad loves them.
Having your parents get divorced is hard. Being a mother who feels like she has let her kids down in any way is wrenching.
That list of kids up there? I want them to know they’re loved. I want them to know they’ve got an army of parents who love them, which is SO GREAT! I never want them to feel excluded or left out. With time I think they’ll come to know the intricacies (and the legitimacy and acceptability) of differences in parenting amongst all those who have parental roles in their lives, and see the benefits there.
And that list of moms up there? I want them to know they’re loved. I want them to know they’ve got any number of kids on any given day who at their core just want to know they’re loved by all their parents. And I want them to know that I, as another mother in this village, will reinforce that to each of those kids as often as circumstance presents itself.
This Mother’s Day is the first in a new chapter of a lifetime of Mother’s Days. The only expectation I’m evaluating is my own, of myself, to continue to commit to set aside what needs to be set aside, and to say and do what needs to be said and done, for the sake of the kids knowing they’re loved by their mothers.
Image: Justin Hackworth Photography