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!)