June 6, 2020

Mothers Live and Love In the Past, Present, and Future

I loved who my children were when they were little. I loved their gorgeous chunky thighs and their mismatched outfits and the funny way they mispronounced things (our nation's 16th president will always be "Aber Lincolnham" to us). I loved their simple happiness and unfiltered enthusiasm. I miss this sometimes.

But I also love who they are now. I love their passion and their knowledge and their insights. I love sharing interests with them. I love our deep conversations. I love their growing independence. I love seeing them do things they love to do that they've worked hard to learn how to do. I love so many of the same things they love. I love doing things together that we would all choose to do on our own. I wouldn't miss this for the world.

Too, I already love the glimpses I'm getting of who they might be in the future. I know tomorrow is promised to no one. I know anything could happen. But I'm still looking forward to what might be. When it gets here, I don't want to miss a minute of it.

And here's a new (to me) realization about all this was/is/might be: as moms, I don't think we have to pick. I don't think we have to entirely let go of one to fully appreciate and (dare I say it?) cherish the others. I don't think loving who my children are now means I love who they were or who they might become less.

I am a keeper of past memories. There are things I saw and heard and experienced that I have first rights to because I was there, front and center.

I am a caretaker of present realities. I am sounding board and counselor and adviser and cheerleader and comforter. I am still a key player in my children's day-to-day lives, even if that mostly amounts to keeping our protein bar selection stocked up and sending encouraging "you can do it!" texts.

And I am a nurturer of future possibilities. I have a front-row seat to big decisions my children are in the thick of making. Sometimes I have a voice in them. When these decisions play out (however they play out), I'll be able to say, "I remember how this all started."

My children took their first steps on those chunky-thighed legs I loved so much. Today, they hurry to classes and teach classes on those lovely legs. And some tomorrow, they might walk down a wedding aisle or chase after their own babies on those strong, capable limbs.

As their mom, I was part of their yesterdays. I am part of their todays. I hope with all my heart I'll be part of their tomorrows. 

And I have the privilege of living and loving it all.

June 5, 2020

Dear Myth of the Perfect Family: We’ve Had Enough of You

Yes, you, with your nosiness and your tiresome commentary on every family situation.

No children? “You two had better get busy!”

One child? “When are you going to give them a sibling?”

Lots of kids? “Are all those yours?”

All girls? “Their poor dad.”

All boys? “Every mom needs a daughter.”

Blended families? “Are you the Brady Bunch?”

Young children: “Just wait till they get to be teenagers.”

Empty nest? “What are you going to do with yourselves?” 

And then there are your sneakier suggestions.

Kids don’t have every opportunity? “They’ll be missing out.”

Mom works? “Your kids will suffer.”

Mom stays home? “What kind of role model is that?”

Siblings don’t get along? “Your kids should be each other’s best friends.”

Family fights? “Don’t show that in the Christmas card picture.”

There’s no pleasing you, and frankly, it’s not our job as families to try. Our job as families is to love each other the best we can. 

Maybe to you, oh myth, that best looks balanced and tidy and smiley and neat and figured out and complete. In our true story, though, that best looks lopsided and messy and very, very much in progress. 

But we’ll take our true story over your myth any day. It’s our story, and we’re not only sticking to it, we’re sticking to and with each other. 

June 2, 2020

I'll Always Believe the Best About My Children

I love the scene in the movie Apollo 13 where astronaut Jim Lovell’s elderly mom learns that her son's ship has a problem (as in, "Houston, we have...") and that getting it and himself and his crew home is going to be tricky business.

Mrs. Lovell asks her granddaughter, "Are you scared?"—and then tells her, without qualification, "Don't be. If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it."

There is just no fan club like the mom fan club. It’s not that moms think their kids can do no wrong; it’s just that they believe their kids can do so much right. 

Our love is not blind, but it is bold. Mom love allows us to see what is possible from a slightly removed position that delivers us from the distraction of too many details.

For instance: my college-bound daughter plans to major in dance, but first, she has to audition for the program. The central piece of her audition is a solo in the style of her preference, to the music of her choosing, set to the choreography of her imagining. On the way home from our campus visit a few months ago, she played me one of the contender songs. I listened and could see her movements in my mind with no trouble at all. Passionate. Strong. Sure. Uninhibited, but not sloppy.

"I'm already crying, just thinking about it," I told her. "It will be incredible."

But my daughter isn’t so sure. She has the benefit (or maybe the curse) of knowing all the ins and outs, knowing the struggles, knowing what looks easy but is in fact so hard, knowing what could happen, knowing what she wants to happen. 

I, on the other hand, have the luxury of looking in from the outside and seeing the big picture, seeing the results, seeing the output without the intrusion of too much information.

Later in Apollo 13, when the world is waiting to see just how lucky or unlucky 13 will turn out to be, Mrs. Lovell is visited by astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. They are introduced to her by Lovell's wife, and this proud mother asks them, "Are you boys in the space program, too?"

If all the world's a stage, a mother is aware there are other performers, but for her, the spotlight always follows her child. 

This is the gift we give our children: love that does not demand the impossible but believes what is possible. Love that does not excuse wrong but expects right. Love that does not overlook limits but sees past them.

I’ve heard countless stories (you probably have, too) of grown children who triumphed over challenges or setbacks in early life and testify as adults that “nobody else believed in me, but my mom did. I’m here today because of her.”

I don’t want to be the only person who believes in my children, and I’m thankful I’m not, not by a long shot. But if this is a club, I am privileged to be its founding member, and I'll gratefully take my place as its president, for life.