Monday, May 14, 2012

The angels, whispering to one another,/Can find, among their burning terms of love,/ None so devotional as that of "Mother"

Recently, I was speaking with my dear friend Kate--who is currently celebrating her first mother's day with her eleventh month old, Jake--about parenting methods and she asked me if my mother ever let me cry myself to sleep in my crib.  I said no because my mother said that she couldn't bear to.  Kate nodded pensively.  "But," I said, in part to soften the smugness of my former statement, "who's to say that is a good thing.  To this day I have attachment issues with my mother--I would very much prefer for her to be with me at all times."

I wish I could say that I was joking--that this was just some clever quip to reassure Kate in her own parenting decisions--but the reality is that I would very much prefer to be with my mother most of the time.  But I don't think that is because I have attachment issues.  I think it's just because I have an amazing mother.

Naturally, I am biased; she's the only mother I have ever known.  But I've heard and seen enough about other mothers to come to the conclusion that she is and was the absolute best mother for me. 

The universal attributes of a good mother are, as I see it: selfless, devoted, encouraging, patient, resilient, and fun.  And my mother is every single one of those.

She gave up a lot to stay home with us kids--a social life, a burgeoning career--but she did it graciously and uncomplainingly.  Everything she did, she did for her children or for her family.  I cannot tell you how much I respect and admire that.  You see these shows like Real Housewives of Blank and these women are always jet setting, getting mani-pedis, and getting sloshed with their girlfriends--they are practically never at home with their children.  That was the furthest thing from my mother.  The only jet setting my mom ever did was to her environmental task force and league of women voters meetings.  The only babysitters that we had when we were children were our siblings, our father, or our polish grandparents.  And yes, we are a little stranger phobic as a result but whatever, we are still better people.

I also don't know any other mother that played with her children as much as my mother did.  And poor Mom, she always had to play the worst characters.  I mean, I had it bad enough, I was always forced to be the boy in whatever Genny and I played, but my poor mother was delegated the parts of the big bad wolf and the wicked step sisters--the parts that even Genny, in all her persuasiveness, couldn't talk me into playing.  When my sister was at school and my mom was pregnant with Scott, and it was just the two of us home together, we had theme days: Little Red Riding Hood, Little Mermaid, etc. Those are still some of my fondest childhood memories--my mother handing me our Red Riding Hood basket (that also doubled as my Dorothy basket), giving me a fruit roll-up to place inside of it (as one of the goodies to bring to my grandmother), and I would waltz down the hall (the woods) only to meet her, the big bad wolf.  Both of my parents made such an effort to foster our imaginations and as result, all of us are creative people: Genny writes, I write, Jeremiah makes up stories, John draws, Isaiah draws and makes up stories, and Scott comes up with these genius nebulous theories.  And what's better as parent than cultivating creative intelligent people?
In the Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon says "All women become their mothers.  That is their tragedy."  I know that that must be true for some people but as I have gotten older I am both relieved and delighted that I am becoming more like my mother.  I've noticed this especially with my patience.  My mom is the most patient person I know.  She would sit for hours and listen to my siblings prattle on about things that interested them or wild ideas they had about string theory or evolutionary biology.  She would listen to me read from my US History textbook and suffer through many an awful gel penned poem from purple notebook during middle school and high school.  None of us were ever made to feel as though we were bothering her or inconveniencing her.  On the contrary, it was like we had an unconditionally receptive, encouraging audience for anything.

I was thinking recently about both my parents and it struck me that in many respects, we got the best of both families; my dad was the best possible dad from his and my mom the best possible mom from hers.  And it's to our dad that we owe much of our inherent strength as individuals, but it is our mother whom we rely on to give us continual strength, especially whenever we flounder.  Emily Dickinson once wrote that "A mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled."  She quickly follows that by explaining how her mother never filled that role for her but mine certainly has.  There is no one I would rather turn to for comfort than my mother and there is no greater sound of comfort than my mother's laughter--especially when it is in response to some outlandish fear I have: like bankruptcy or having Sarcoidosis.

So much of what is good and admirable about me comes from my mother, and since motherhood is so often thankless, as I am sure it was during the bulk of my teen years, I wanted to take this opportunity on mother's day to thank my mother for all those times that I didn't thank her.  So thank you, Mom, for everything that you have done.

And while this is may not be the wittiest or most eloquent post, true to form, I would very much prefer that you were here with me as I write this.

I love you.

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