I have (among other neuroses) a mothering complex. I have hinted at it here, here, and here. (And laughingly, here.) And now my lovely friend Heather has asked me (well, her readers) to post a list of the things I do great as a mom. Good luck! I've been putting it off for days. Partly because I can't think of more than one item. And then because, well, I read lists like Heather's and Jessica's, and they look like the best moms in the world, and so how can I possibly...
Okay, so herein lie the roots of my complex: I was a working mom when our kids were small. I didn't feel like I had a choice. Even though I worked at home, I worked long, stressful hours. Hours that took me away from my kids. At a job that often kept me mentally distracted even when I was with them. So I look at all my wonderful stay-at-home mom friends and in some ways I'm insanely jealous. I feel like I'm playing catch-up at a game I don't even know most of the rules for. Like I'm playing along, but I'm missing half the cards and most of the really cool pieces. But I'm smiling and playing along, pretending to have a good time. And berating myself constantly. Because I am really, truly not good at this. And I don't like being not good at things. I'm entirely uncomfortable being, in fact, not the best. There. I said it.
For example, I like to think that I'm patient. And then I think about how often that patience comes from a deep-seated habit of just TUNING THEM OUT and I think, that doesn't count. Or I think how not afraid I am to make a big, giant fool out of myself just so I can hear them laugh. And I think, pandering for laughs doesn't cut it either. Or that the kids rarely watch network t.v. and we keep a lock on the theater room door? Dubious honor. Or that getting all three kids off to school on time – once – feels as heroic as climbing Mt. Everest? This is not impressive.
So I went to the experts. My kids. And this is what they told me. Verbatim.
The Princess: "You're a good cook, you don't yell at us (yay)....very often (that's more like it), you smell nice (that made me laugh out loud...but coming from the Princess, who insists on smelling me, literally revels in burying her nose somewhere on me almost every day, okay.) You give good back rubs. You're good at helping us with our practicing and our homework. You make us feel good about ourselves. You love us. "
The 17-year-old (who looks and acts just like Jim on The Office): "You make amazing food! I'll tell you the rest later -- gotta go get my car now."
Mr. Cool: "I hate you." (Me: mock puppy-dog pouting, whimpering.) "Just kidding. You know I'm kidding, right? Because you're the best thing in my life. I'm serious. The very best."
So, it suddenly occurs to me, here's what I do best as a mother. I make great kids. I have a studly seventeen-year-old who still kisses me good night every night, tells me he loves me every day, makes me laugh several times a day, and genuinely enjoys being with me. He works hard in school, works hard to improve himself, and has a sparkle in his eye and a very sweet, sensitive core.
I have a lovely 13-year-old princess who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, who lovingly includes other people in everything she does, who naturally nurtures and rescues and builds...and is surrounded by people who appreciate her. She is confident enough to stand up for herself and the people she loves. And she has somehow never lost the palpable sweetness she was born with.
I have the coolest nine-year-old on the planet, with drop-dead gorgeous eyes and a very adult sense of humor. He, too, makes me laugh several times a day...and he still wants to snuggle at night. Still wants me to walk outside with him at night to bring in his bike...even when he has his pocket knife out and at-the-ready. Still wants me to scratch his back and say prayers with him at bedtime. And greets me with wonderful hugs.
I have amazing children! So I must be doing something right...even though at times I'm not quite sure what that something is.