Thursday, January 14, 2010
Remember Who You Wanted to Be?
Before I had children, I had big plans about the kind of mother I was going to be. I would be firm but approachable, cool but not irresponsible, creative but not country crafty, honest but protective. I would make dinner every night, read literature instead of the "Little Engine that Could" before bed time, and infuse every action with love and care.
Newsflash: I've given up on my bid for Mother of Year. Six years later, after one husband, two kids, a mortgage, a 35-mile commute, and a job that sucks up my brain cells, I'd say I'm batting about 30 percent on these lofty goals.
I am reminded of how fallible I am every time I'm stuck in traffic after work when I should be home making dinner or giving the boys a bath, or when the kids try to gouge eachother's eyes out while I'm doing the laundry, or when I'm rushing around in the morning threatening to give both children back to the Indians if they don't get their fingers out of their noses and put their coats on five minutes ago.
Lately I've seen the same bumpersticker again and again: "Remember who you wanted to be?" I'm not much for bumpersticker philosophy, but I feel like the message from this one was written just for me.
So, I'm going to try. I suck at New Year's resolutions. Instead of making one this year, I have one general goal that I'd like to chip away at a little at the time (in between being rushed and overworked and picking the banana out of my hair): I'd like to be a more thoughtful mom.
I'm looking to the women in my life for inspiration, and there's plenty of it.
-- When I was little, my aunt Susan led my cousins and me around like the Pied Piper. We picked up pine cones to dress the long table for Thanksgiving, we pretended to be ducks ("Quack, quack, waddle, waddle"), and we picked so many flowers I'm surprised the camellia bush out front still blooms. I never forgot a minute of it.
-- For my toddlers, my husband's Grandma Hall made a photo album (the old kind with the clear adhesive sheets that peel and stick to each page) filled with pictures cut out from magazines. Every page has a theme ranging from bikes to Santa Claus to fruit. My boys have spent hours looking through theirs.
-- My mother took my four brothers and me to the library at least once a week and gave us free reign when we got there. She taught us to love reading but allowed us to develop our own interests. What a gift.
-- Another one from Grandma Hall: She saved boxes full of momentos of grandchildren over the years. Last year she made each of them a personalized scrapbook that included her favorites. My 6'2" husband teared up when he saw the handwritten, construction paper cards he made when he was 6 or 7, the newspaper clippings announcing he was on the honor roll, and pictures of his family he had never seen or had forgotten about.
-- My mother-in-law recorded her own voice as she read the pages of "The Night Before Christmas." My boys are still listening to it 2 months later.
-- Grandma Hall strikes again: Handpainted Christmas ornaments for each family member with our names and dates inscribed on the back. Even my 5-year-old understands that these are gifts to be treasured. When we opened this year's ornaments, he exclaimed, "Everything Grandma makes is special." Jason's mom saved the ones Grandma Hall gave her when he was little, and those will end up on our tree next year too.
-- I spent every Friday night with my great-aunt Johnnie until I was 13 or so. She picked me up on Friday afternoon, we visited her sister Maureen at the nursing home, and then we headed to her house, where she brought me dinner on a T.V. tray and we watched the Dukes of Hazzard, Dallas, and Falcon Crest. It wasn't the television that made our time together valuable -- it was knowing there was no one else on earth she wanted to hang out with more. Sentimental, but true.
Wish me luck. I'll keep you posted.