With this being Mother’s Day weekend I don’t imagine there is a mother alive who hasn’t at one time or another thought she was the worst mother on the planet. There are times we mother’s worry that we’ve screwed up our kids so irreparably that they’ll be paying for therapy longer than they’ll be paying off college loans.
My three children are all grown and in their 20s and 30s and I still beat myself up over how I reared them. Did I provide equal amounts of love and discipline? Did I smother them — emotionally manipulate them or guilt them into learning life’s tough lessons? (I know, as any good ex-Catholic knows – life lessons simply CANNOT be fully grasped without a mother’s guilt.)
A young friend of mine who is the mother of two toddlers confessed on Facebook recently that she worries that she’s not cut out for motherhood and sometimes wishes she could simply run away – if even for a little while. I wish I had a dollar for every time I had those thoughts while my kids were growing up. I’d be a rich woman today if that were in fact the case!
Being a mother has taught me so much. Now that my kids are grown and are responsible, well-mannered human beings, it’s only in hindsight that I’m able to objectively view all that I gleaned from my many years of child-rearing.
As a mother, I have learned that …
1. Letting my husband watch the kids and going for a drive in my car BY MYSELF for one hour with the radio blaring so I could yell, cry and scream to the universe was the best therapy for maintaining my sanity when I thought motherhood would drive me to the brink of craziness.
2. If you have a toddler with explosive diarrhea it’s good to go for one of those neighborhood drives the minute your husband gets home from work so he can fully appreciate what a day in your life is like when he dares to ask you, “So … what did you do all day?”
3. No matter what kind of cleaning solvent you use to scrub permanent marker off your living room walls it won’t make the job any easier by reminding yourself of the career you gave up to stay at home to be a full-time mother. Permanent marker is permanent – hence the name. Buy a gallon of paint, preferably in a color that matches your permanent ink.
4. When helping your middle-schooler create an authentic Native-American village out of Styrofoam and art-deco, Tootsie Roll Midgies cut in half and covered in sand make the most beautiful corn rows. When your child’s project ends up prominently displayed in the library for the entire school to see, you resist taking credit for the hard work you put into the project — even though you know you’re responsible for at least 50% of the ideas and actual work. A mother’s job is to build self-esteem not quash dreams or artistic creativity.
5. Dropping your pre-teen and his friends off at the mall only to circle back and go inside for a “shoe sale” is merely an excuse for spying on their pre-teen outing. It’s only after you witness your child buying a big pretzel from the Pretzelmaker and not meth-amphetamines from Jesse Pinkman or Walter White that you can trust that they actually DO in fact, possess a modicum of common sense. It’s okay to relax and let your child grow up.
6. When screaming at a rebellious teenaged daughter through a closed door, it is mandatory to wave a pointy finger at said closed door regardless of the fact that your teen daughter cannot see your waving, pointy finger. Every few minutes it’s necessary to punctuate your waving, pointing finger and parental tirade with the requisite threat of …“Just you wait until you have kids of your own someday!” This threat is maximally effective when followed with the grand poobah of all threats … “I hope you have a daughter (or son) just like YOU someday!”
7. The longer I parented my children, the more I turned into my little Sicilian mother who taught me the fundamentals of a properly executed waving, pointy finger and the essential yelling decibel required for strong disciplinary tactics. Momma knew that lessons were more quickly assimilated when punctuated with a pointy, waving finger. (In addition, having long fingernails was actually a bonus and maximized the parental threat.)
8. Waiting up for a newly-licensed teenager to be home by curfew is a million times harder than walking the floor with a feverish baby. With a little Tylenol, the fever eventually abates, but there’s not a box of wine big enough to assuage your worry over a driving teen who doesn’t know half as much as they think they do.
9. The things I swore I’d never do that my mother always did when I was growing up became the tried and true cornerstones of good, solid disciplinary parental practices. My mother taught me that a “Yes sir” or “no ma’am” would take me farther in life than a “Yeah?” response AND saying “please” and “thank-you” were (and still are) the foundation of what is considered “good behavior.”
10. An unsolicited hug or a spontaneous “I love you, Mom” from your child – no matter their age – is more life affirming and meaningful than a 5% cost of living raise or cake in the break room at work, no matter who your employer is.
11. No matter how long the sleepless newborn stage, baby diapering stage, toddler stage or teenaged angst phases last — the time actually flies by faster than imagined. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t long to turn the clock back so I could more fully appreciate every single phase. If I knew then what I know now — I would have milked it for all it was worth.
12. Being a mother is the hardest, most unappreciated and underpaid job in the world, but one I would do all over again in a heartbeat. There is NOTHING more rewarding in life than being a mom to my three children, Lindsay, Jordan and Kelsey. I thank God every day for entrusting the job of being the mother of these three amazing people to me.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to moms everywhere! And to my mother who will have been in Heaven for 12 years on Mother’s Day this year… I love you and miss you every day, Mom!
Blessings in Christ and as always … happy reading!
Antonina Viviano-Dellinger (10/06/33 to 5/10/2003)
My three kids … Kelsey, Lindsay and Jordan