Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Mama Mia

When I grow up, I want to be like my mom.

That's always what I've wanted, really. When I was a little girl, my plan for life after graduation was to do exactly what my mom did: go to Ricks College for two years, then BYU, then live the wild-n-free single life for a while, then get married and have babies. I didn't exactly follow that path (I skipped Ricks and got married before I graduated from the Y), but I'm still trying to do things the way my mom has done them.

Mom has just always seemed so put-together to me (except, maybe, when I was a teen, and then even the way she breathed was wrong and completely humiliating). She's friendly. She's smart. She's fun. She's engaged in life. She's been happily married for over thirty years. She's raised four healthy, kind, intelligent, self-disciplined children. She's comfortable with herself and confident in her choices. Who wouldn't want to follow in her shoes?

When I find myself in a sticky parenting situation, I often ask myself, "What would my mom have done? How would she have handled this?" When a holiday comes around, I try to remember, "What did Mom do that made this holiday special for us? How can I do that?" I cook my kids hot breakfasts most mornings because that's the way Mom did it. I won't cut the crusts off Soren's sandwiches because Mom didn't cut the crusts off my sandwiches. I listen to music with my kids because Mom listened to music with us.

The thing about my mom (as a mom) that is most impressive to me is how good she was at striking balance in her parenting: she was warm and caring but didn't put up with crap, she offered support while encouraging autonomy, she was a parent and a friend, she knew when to say "yes" and when to say "no." She devoted a lot of time to nurturing her children but knew when it was time to stop and nurture herself.

I will forever appreciate the positive support my mom has always given me. I don't recall ever feeling like my mom disapproved of me: she might have disapproved of some of my choices or opinions, but never me. I remember occasionally coming into my bedroom to find the bed unexpectedly made and a treat and a note left on the pillow. It was Mom, of course, expressing her love, giving encouragement, pointing out the good things she saw in me. During times when I've felt particularly frustrated and inadequate, she's always been there to say that she believes in me. I remember losing a writing contest in the fourth grade. She knew how much it had meant to me, how much I wanted to win. I sat on her lap and cried, and she told told me about how all the good authors in the world had drawers full of rejection slips from publishers and that I should just consider this my first rejection slip, a badge of honor, really, for an aspiring young writer. When I didn't make the drill team in High School, she left a bag of chocolate in my car with a note telling me how sorry she was, that it was their loss, and to keep my chin up. I called her one morning recently, crying because I was overwhelmed by my children and feeling inadequate to the task of parenting them. That evening when I got in my car to drive home from work, there was mug of candy and a note from my mom: "Believe in yourself, Tootsie. You're doing great."

During my childhood I learned that life can be a good and a joy-filled thing, that I can cope with challenges, that I am capable of doing things that are difficult, that kindness and service are important, and that I should follow my dreams and become the person I was intended to be. My mom cultivated an environment in her home in which she was able to nurture these beliefs in her children. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my mom (and dad) for giving me these gifts, and--at this point in my life, particularly--I am endlessly grateful for my mom's beautiful example of motherhood. If I can be even a part of the mom that my mom is, I will consider my endeavor into motherhood to have been a rousing success.

Happy Mother's Day, Mama. I sure love you.


Holly said...

Amen. Kathy is one of my favorite people!

Jennifer said...

I love your mom. Tell her I said hello. This post really made me miss her. She was an inspiring teacher as well as a mother. I am glad to call her a friend. She was sorely disappointed the day I announced my engagement....it meant I wasn't going to marry into the family after all. She held on to the end!

Collette said...

Everything you've said is true, and it makes me feel all weepy with gratitude. I, too, find myself trying to do the things Mom did that made us kids feel special and loved and capable, right down to the secret bestowal of chocolate during times of need. I can't imagine a world without my mom.


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