Wednesday, May 10, 2006

'M' Is For The Many Things...

Listen, I've been a wreck for the last week. Stressed, anxious, overly sensitive, and highly sentimental. And I've dwelt quite a bit on mothering, as my child has been sick, has been disobedient, has been loving, and has been affectionate...sometimes all at once. And I've had occasions aplenty to play the child role myself, and to think about it all.

Bella and I had a very bad few moments of downright defiance today, and at one point (when I couldn't get her DRESSED so I could go to work--seriously, she was running around the house naked telling me that I was "making her head hurt") I called my mom's cell phone, interrupting her busy work-day, and said, among other things, "HELP ME." Sometimes I feel so clueless, and especially so when I reflect on the fact that although I was my mother's first child, and she was SIXTEEN YEARS younger when she had me than I was when I had Bella, AND that she was far away from her own mother for the first time in her life...that, despite all that, she somehow always, always knew just the perfect way to parent me. And I was NOT an easy child. I wasn't bratty or spoiled or defiant, but I was...complicated.

So today in my ineptitude, when my naked hellion was running roughshod over me (this after I'd even forcibly dressed her, only to have her strip again), and I had exhausted everything in my arsenal to impose my will on her to no avail, I did what any mature, educated woman of the 21st century should: I called my mommy. She listened to me whine on about my predicament (probably thinking, "I can't believe my daughter is this clueless," although she'll deny that) for a bit, then said, "Well, if it were me, I'd just tell her that if she wanted to be naked, she'd have to stay in her room, but if she wanted to be out with the rest of the family, she'd have to get dressed."

Me: "Bella, if you won't get dressed, you need to go to your room and stay there. If you want to be in here with me, you have to put your clothes on."

Bella: "OH. Okay." (Gets dressed)

Holy. Cow. I am a not-seeing-the-forest-for-the-trees idiot of a parent. I got a few more tips this afternoon, but I'm not sharing any more because I think I look stupid enough in your eyes already. Suffice it to say that my mom has parenting instincts that are pretty darned impressive, even when the child in question isn't hers. I'm thinking that raising me was the equivalent of Mommy Boot Camp, and that having lived through that, she can parent anything.

I'd say I'd like to BE my mother, because she is so amazingly competent at every single thing she puts her hand to (except for drawing; She can't draw a straight line, but I think that was just God's way of making her HUMAN), but honestly? Thinking of myself shouldering the responsibilities of my mother makes me...well, tired. It's a tough act to follow, a difficult legacy to try and live up to, but on the other hand, I kind of hope that people who know her give me the benefit of the doubt, using that apple-not-falling-far-from-the-tree logic...however inaccurate that assumption might be in my case. I once sat silent in a group of women who were bemoaning all the ways in which they were "turning into" their mothers. When someone finally noticed my silence and asked me if I was experiencing the same thing, I think I threw some of their brains into vapor-lock when I just answered, "I wish."

Heck, as recently as yesterday, she had Alex and I in her office, SCHOOLING us on some practical matters that we're dealing with right now, and while some of it stung a little at the time (doesn't it always, when they're RIGHT?), by the time we went to bed last night, we were both energized, hopeful, and re-committed to our new "plan" Because the thing is, and I know I've mentioned this here before, my mom is nearly always right. You can take her advice to the bank, and I heartily appreciate the fact that she continues to "parent" me. My dad did the same thing. I could not be more grateful.

And hey, wanna know what's really cool? I have an amazing mother-in-LAW, as well. Seriously, how many people can say that? (Well, besides Alex, I mean.) She and my mom have a lot in common. They are both strong, beautiful, spiritual women who have worked hard their entire lives, both inside and outside the home--at least the equivalent of two full-time jobs each. They each raised two children, doing their best to mold those children into strong, capable independent thinkers who would contribute to the world. (Jury's still out on Alex and me, but those women went above and beyond toward that end.) They are gentle, compassionate, smart people who can do anything. A-NY-THING. They both had strong marriages, each to one man who was the love of her life, and who left this earth far too soon. They both seem to have the energy of women half their ages, and expend much of that energy on behalf of others.

Alex's mom, Lynette, has lived and worked (teaching high-school English) in the same small town for most of her life. She is universally beloved there, which is no mystery at all, once you know her. I liked her right away upon meeting her--it was the smile that lit up her eyes, her whole countenance. She didn't fake-smile and give an outer "Glad to meet you" while inwardly thinking, "We'll see about you, Honey." I liked her from jump street because she made it clear that she liked me. All she really needed to know about me was that I was making her son happy, and that showed. She has been a source of support, inspiration, and comfort for both Alex and me, and my only regret concerning her is that she doesn't live closer to us. Isabella adores her, and it warms my heart to watch Lynette read to or play games with my little girl, and I wish we could all be together every day. We have additional kinship in the fact that my age in relation to Bella's corresponds to Lynette's in relation to Alex's.

I have saved, for 4 years now, a card that came with some beautiful roses I received on my very first Mother's Day as a mom in my own right; It was a rough time, when we were still very much on the newly-diagnosed-bipolar-disorder roller coaster with Alex, before he got a GOOD doctor and the right medications, and Bella and I were alone, Alex in treatment. The card said, "I am so glad that you are my granddaughter's mother. I love you." I think I will keep it forever. I can't even express what it means to me to have those words to keep in my heart. When I say she has loved me like I was her own daughter, I am not speaking in cliche'.

And when I say that Alex and I have been not just blessed, but saved, repeatedly, by the powerful and unstoppable love of our mothers, I do not exaggerate. They have helped us in every way possible in our many struggles, supported us in times of hard decision-making, and guided us with their deep wisdom and compassion. We are at a vantage point now from which we can see a place where things will be better, and more stable, than they have ever been for us, and I can honestly say that I don't believe we'd be at that point were it not for our parents. One of our deepest desires in life is to make them proud, and because of who they are, and what they've given us over these last almost-forty years, we may finally be in a position to do just that, if we only exhibit half the determination, honesty, dedication, and love that they taught us.

So yeah...I may be waxing sentimental on Mom, Mom, motherhood, and all things maternal for the rest of the week. I'm just really feeling it, is all. I just love and appreciate Mom so much, and hope, through some miracle of sudden maturity and spontaneous wisdom, to become her. Ditto Mom-In-Law.

Make it so, Lord.

(UPDATE: Psssst! Alex actually posted something last night! Could this be the start of something big? Only time will tell!)


  1. Awww, that was beautiful. I want to be like your moms too! It is awesome that you are so blessed and that you're one of the ones who really does appreciate the good things. You are a wonderful person, Belinda!

  2. Ok. I want the rest of what advice and tips you got. Because the naked in the room out of the room is BRILLIANT.

    I just can't think of those things when I'm in the middle of a tug of war with a 3-year-old. It turns into forciable dressing and me nearly exploding.

    So what I'm saying's not just you Belinda.

  3. Wow. I think most people would be happy to have ONE mother like that, and you've got TWO.

    That is really cool.

    And I am SO going to start walking around naked and telling Mrs. Fab that she is making my head hurt LOL

  4. what a beautiful post!

    You (plus a little help form my hormones) really made me cry...

    My mum is completly different to yours, but has always been there for me, even when it's been really, really rough.

    Have a great mother's day :) xx

  5. Beautifully written! And from what I've read here, you're shaping up just fine to someday move into her position of greatness! Happy Mother's Day (early).

  6. I love my Mom too! and my Mother-in-law!

    I barely held the tears in.

    You couldn't have written a better Mother's Day card.


  7. That was lovely - I think you should print this post and use it as your mother's day card.

    And ps, you are not clueless! Being a parent is the toughest job in the world! In every other profession we seek advice from those who worked there before us, have done it before, why not parenthood?

  8. That was a beautiful post. It is great in times of trouble or distress to have a mom like that to turn to.

    I thank God every day for may mom and that she is there for our family to love and help guide us.

    I hope one day to have people think of me as they do my mom.

  9. I'm wiping away the tears. What a beautiful post Belinda. Really, you are an amazing woman and mother!

    When my son toby wouldn't get dressed i just took him out naked (with a change of clothes in my bag). Called his bluff so to speak. When we arrived at our destination he begged me for some clothes.

  10. You are incredibly lucky. And so are they.

  11. i feel the same way about my mom. "tough act to follow" does not even begin to encompass the wisdom of the woman who made me; my biggest fear about having kids is whether i'll be able to give them what she gave me.

    happy mother's day, belinda. cheers to all!

  12. cece, you know the feeling is mutual. :-) Love the new pic!

    QoS, it was so simple, I just couldn't see it. Mom said that by that point, I had "battle fatigue" and wasn't thinking straight!

    Mr. Fab...thanks for the visual. Once again, my sympathies to the Mrs. I feel her pain.

    diane, thanks. I think there is some sort of super-estrogen moon out this month. We all seem to be getting weepy and sentimental!

    IE, thanks. Start dropping hints to the hounds now about Mother's Day coming up. Maybe they will catch you a rabbit! On second thought...;-)

    nikkirae--yep. I hope my daughter thinks half as well of me.

    VG, you are right--raising me probably made my mother the best mentor for raising Bella that I could find!

    kim, I know! Can you imagine that day? I can't.

    jess,'re an easy cry! And that's not the first time I've gotten that tip, but I can't help thinking that Bella would be perfectly happy going on an outing in her Scooby-Doo panties and sandals. Yup. I can totally see it.

    Andrea, thanks. I have a hard time with the idea of someone being "lucky" to have *me*.

    jennifer--right back atcha...I'm hoping that we can't possibly have escaped the tutelage of such wise women without them leaving their "stamp" on us. Let's hope!

  13. That's a great post to bring us into Mother's Day weekend, Belinda. Thanks! And it's funny too. Your Alex does sound like a handful!

  14. Those are precious thoughts, Belinda!

  15. That was great advice!

    I'd try it, but I'm afraid my 2 year old nudist would say, "Okay Mama" and toddle into his room and close the door... then I'd really be screwed! LOL

  16. What a great tribute to the wonderful mothers in your life. Isn't it a blessing to have them?

    I feel so lucky that my own MIL is so terrific to me. She loves me like I am her own and that's all I could ask of her.

  17. The best part is Bella will grow up just like you.

    Wait a minute. That means she's going to meet tons of unsavory people on the internet.

    Better get working on that. :)

  18. Do you mind if I link back to this post when I write one for Mother's Day? My Mother passed away and my MIL is not around right now, so I need a good role model to write about! I mean, besides me, of course ;)

  19. What a beautiful post. Your mom and MIL sound like wonderful women and I'm sure they think the same of you! You're passing on a great leagacy to your daughter by openly loving and admiring the women in your life.

  20. Wonderful post!

    BTW, Bella sounds a LOT like my two. So, er-em...yes, I don't know what the heck I'm doing on most days. I don't know if you're a pareting book type of person - I'm always a bit skeptical, sort of "okay, okay, what can I trash in this first" - but in spite of my cynicism, I have found three that are GREAT for those times when my mom's phone is busy.

    "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen" by Faber and Mazlish (sp?)is my dog-eared bible

    ANYTHING by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, but Kids and Power Struggles is fabu

    and the A-Z Positive Discipline books by Jane Nelsen are primo.

    Anyway...good luck. And again, lovely post.

  21. Okay. I waited so long to comment that maybe no one will see this. I was so overwhelmed at my daughter's picture of me that I offered to make a list of my shortcomings for her so I could come down off the pedestal she had me on. She said she didn't want it, only a list of my "tricks".

    Belinda, there were no tricks. Only the ability to put myself in your little head and think about how you wanted to be loved, corrected, encouraged, cautioned, etc. You were unlike any other child on earth, as is Bella.

    Cherish her uniqueness and her strength. She is precious. I love the "Belinda" I see in Isabella. It's like I get to experience my little girl all over again. And from time to time, I get to see her Aunt Andrea (like in the bridal shop), and in wonderful moments, I even see her Granddaddy Zane! She is the best of all of us rolled into one beautiful (if challenging) little package.

    Thank you, Lord, for letting me be a mother and a grandmother. I'm still learning how to do it.