This Sunday is Mothers’ Day. I am looking forward to having everyone here for a relaxing and hopefully delicious brunch! Since my mother lives with us six months of the year (my dad, too, but this is a Mothers’ Day piece), our home, like theirs was, is the gathering place for my brothers and their families. Usually that means sixteen of us, before we add friends and neighbors and pets and anyone else who wants to join us.
My mother is my biggest supporter and for the ten years that we have lived together, we have almost never exchanged a cross word. She is the embodiment of kindness, always doing something nice for others, always helping out when needed. Years ago, she and my dad lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in an investment scam. The class action suit against the company’s principals has resulted in small amounts of recovered money here and there. While they were in Florida this past winter, an envelope arrived that looked like it contained a check. I called them, and upon opening found that it was indeed a check, for $46.23. After we stopped laughing, she directed me to deposit the check, and agreed that we would use the money to “pay it forward.” I had so much fun at the drive up at Dunkin’ Donuts, picking up the tab for the cars behind me. I am incredibly proud to be her daughter and look forward to celebrating her on Sunday!
My mother had me when she was barely twenty years old. Even though I did not meet my husband until I was 35, I was never one of those women whose biological clock was ticking. I really never wanted children. Until I met my husband; then I wanted his children. Before we got married, I agreed to three. Because of my advanced age, we had our first child pretty quickly, and our second was born about two years after that. We revisited the conversation about the total after my daughter was born. I was happy with two, one of each, and was uncomfortable with the thought of being outnumbered, or not having enough arms. My husband agreed and so two it was.
No one prepares you for being a parent. No one tells you that you will never again be yourself, you will forever be your children’s mom. Who would ever take on this job if you knew it meant 18+ years of being exhausted, anxious, embarrassing or too stupid to live? I got the first hint of just how deep the changes would be soon after we moved here from Washington, DC, when our son was two weeks old. We needed to furnish our new house and Building 19’s Oriental Rug Sale caught our attention. We left the baby with his grandparents while we shopped. We found the perfect rug, and went to the register. When the salesperson said, “so that’ll be $120 dollars” we exchanged a quick look. “That’s not right,” I pointed out. The rug was $1200.
We could have used that thousand dollars, but I knew that I could not have lived with the lie. I wanted to be an example for my child. Even then, when he was only two weeks old, I agonized about making the right decision–cloth or disposable, formula or breast milk. Decisions don’t get much easier than that, though. People always say “little people little problems”–usually people with no more young children. The problems sure did not feel little. Go back to work or stay home? Day care or nanny? Pre-school? Half day or all day kindergarten? Public school or private?
I distinctly remember the moment I learned that I needed to trust my instincts when it came to my children, the same way that I trusted my instincts professionally. I have gone with my gut ever since. I know that my decisions aren’t always right, but I know that they at least feel right. My son has successfully completed his second year in college, and my daughter is preparing for her high school graduation, so there is some evidence that I was correct at least part of the time. That and the fact that they are wonderful people. I love them beyond all reason, and I am incredibly proud to be their mother.
Thomas Farragher’s column in the Boston Globe on November 8, 2014 centered on his adult son’s move back home. He wondered why people complained so much about this as he was really enjoying having his son around. I sent him an email that read in part “It is refreshing to read about a parent who actually enjoys their children–and their company–and appreciates that our time together, in this way, is indeed short. My son is a freshman at UMass Lowell, and I have had a hard time adjusting to his absence. I am far from a helicopter mom; I just like my children. They are smart, funny, kind human beings, and really, who wouldn’t want to spend more time with people like that?” He graciously answered, “Completely agree. Love my kids.”
I especially love watching my children with my mother. Her greatest happiness –besides seeing all of her children and their families healthy and happy–comes in the form of a hug from them. When my children would run to the in-law apartment to complain about me, she listened sympathetically but never took their side. She absolutely loved that my son told her about his planned tattoo before he got it, and she never once judged him–or me for letting him do it! She has even been tolerant of my nieces’ tattoos. This would never have been the response had it been one of my brothers when they were seventeen! She has grown more mellow rather than less in so many ways (not the norm for aging!). I am so grateful to have her here with me, grateful she is my children’s grandmother, grateful for all she has done and still does for me, grateful to be her daughter.
Mothers’ Day Bonus: For all my friends, moms and daughters, here is a great Mothers’ Day playlist from Spotify for listening while we celebrate, or remember our moms and each other!
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