Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mother of all Weeks

It's my mom's birthday today. She'd be turning 71, if she were still alive.
This is always a loaded time for me: Mom's birthday and Mother's Day, both crammed into one emotionally-charged week.

Although she was a terrific mother -- focused on her kids, held high expectations, taught by example, and was ever a peacemaker -- my mom always loathed Mother's Day. Said it was too sappy and sentimental. Said it made her feel guilty. Sometimes, although she was ├╝ber-righteous, she'd even stay home from church, just to avoid the maudlin Mother's Day meeting. Every time we asked her what she wanted for Mother's Day she answered, "Nice kids and a clean house." We could never figure out why she always said that. (Of course I get it now!)

I've inherited my mother's loathing of Mother's Day. Sensing a need to protect myself, I usually fix my own dinner (so I get exactly what I'm craving) and buy myself something I want. I don't tell anybody I'm doing it (but sometimes I go as far as to get it wrapped). It's a way for me to manage the ups and downs of a roller-coaster day. And sometimes it works.

But this year I'm trying something new. The best way to honor my mother is to be the best I can be in return. Hoping to assuage some of the pain and guilt in time for Sunday, I'm starting a week ahead. I'm not buying myself anything. I'm cleaning my house. Because that's what I really want. (Especially after remodeling.) I can't do anything about the nice kids part. But I can be a nice mom. No, nice doesn't cut it. I can be a great mom. A happy, compassionate, organized, nurturing, exemplary, superhuman mom...at least I think I can try it on for a week.

One day, when we were pondering whether or not to have baby #3, I had a heart-to-heart with God. I told him I didn't think I was a very good mother, and maybe I didn't deserve another child. But I would do whatever He wanted. Amazingly, in that instant He answered me with a series of mental snapshots -- my own private youtube of spiritual video clips of all the times I was a perfect mom. I couldn't have imagined a better answer to my soul-searching. I've never forgotten it. (But I wish I could get it on DVD, to review daily.) So for Mother's Day this year, I want to create another series of perfect mothering moments -- new ones. I know I can't be perfect -- even for a day, but I can perfect a few moments. And I know from experience that the Lord remembers them even when we don't.

So I'm taking lessons.
My first round of instruction came from the family dog.
You can read it here.

But I want to hear from you, too.
Since I can't ask my mom for help or advice,
I have to learn from other mothers.
(And after 15 years of running a design studio out of my house, I always feel like I'm playing catch-up to my stay-at-home heroes.)
What's the best thing you've ever done as a mother?
What would be among your perfect mothering moments?

And of course I have to acknowledge that the very best tutoring I receive comes when I am on my knees.

But I still want to hear from you.


Allison said...

I've been debating whether to turn this into a session of Jana Jealousy or to compare our two uncannily similar mothers, or to tell you an experience or two from being a teacher and having certain moments with my "kids", seeing as I don't quite have my own thus far.

I decided to go with something you've taught me as a friend that has stuck. I got part of it from my own mother, but considering the hours and days and weeks at a time I've been in your presence, you're the only other likely source. You have taught me to shoot for the best. Mediocrity is not in your vocabulary. I think that's why you feel you fall short so much - because there's always a "better" in your mindset that you feel you haven't reached.

Examples of your high expectations: fancy water vs. normal water, perfection in all things edible, the drive for expanding and practicing greater knowledge in the arts, creating a teaching moment at any opportunity with your children, spouse, or best friends (best = anyone with whom you come into contact), and always taking time to smell the rosemary! I love you!

Kimberly said...

Fabulous post!

The moments that stand out the most in my mind are those moments when I let go of the rush-rush-rush feeling and take the time to snuggle with my little ones. Read them stories. Simply talk with them.

My three year old expresses such gratitude in those moments it overwhelms me.

Brillig said...

I have to tell you that, after reading this, I feel even more ridiculous about the silly things I said about my own mom when I saw you this morning. Sigh. I wish I'd read this first. The truth is, if anything happened to my mom (and I suppose someday it will!) it would rip my heart apart and I don't know how I'd go on. I'm sending my love and thoughts your way-- this must be a difficult week.

It's always so interesting to me when I see someone like you who truly seems to have it all together, and then I read this post and realize that even you have insecurities and concerns. It's kinda refreshing, actually!

Beautiful post, dear.

Cari said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alison Wonderland said...

Oh how well I know those trying to live up to the SAHMs. It wasn't really a conscious thing on my part but I sort of lowered my standards (didn't expect perfect kids (or a clean house)) this year too and It was the best mother's day I've ever had.
And you're right those perfect mother moments don't come often but that makes them all the sweeter when they do show up.

Cari said...

As you requested:

My daughter, Ruby, is a piece of work (never mind that she was my work). She cracks me up or makes me nuts, constantly. Today for breakfast she wanted a pickle, some celery, and some peanut butter. Then she added Cheerios to the peanut butter. Whoa! She thought she had concocted something extra special. For lunch, she wanted yogurt and two crackers--to make a sandwich, she said. It's my own darn fault for ignoring the sandwich warning. Next thing I know, there's yogurt all over the table, up to her elbows, in her hair, on her dress, all resulting from her sandwich effort. I told her that was too messy and not to move until I got a wash cloth and cleaned her up. Her cheery reply was, "ok, mom. I put it on the wall, too." Aaaaaaaaaah! How did I miss that? Then I got upset and told her that kind of stuff made me lose my mind. She started to cry and asked me to please not lose my mind.

Then tonight when I was putting her jammies on after her bath, she wanted to know how they make bellies. I asked, "Who?" She replied, "They! Mom. How do they make bellies?" So I, brilliantly, decided to tell her about cell differentiation in the womb. "Before you were born and you were growing in my belly, little tiny pieces of you called cells got together and wanted to be bellies, and some others wanted to be eyes, and some hair" etc. "What about bones, mom." "Some cells wanted to be bones." Then I realized I had left God entirely out of it, so I added Him into the explanation. The whole thing must have gotten too unwieldy for her because she put her arms around my neck and said, "No, mom. How did *you make my belly." Innocent and beautiful redirection. And as these words--that I didn't make her belly, that I was just a house to protect her while her little body and mind grew and she became my perfect Ruby--as that came out of my mouth, I was made speechless by all of it. Thank goodness she didn't ask any more questions. Why that answer satisfied her, I don't know, but it makes me never want to lose my mind so I can always remember these moments. Who cares about a little yogurt on the wall.

Scribbit said...

I remember someone I admired talking about this and saying that instead of thinking about our own failures as moms we should spend mother's day thinking about the great mothers in our lives. It kind of embarrassed me because it showed how focused on me I was. Mother's Day has been easier since then--a bit.