I worry that my boys deserve more than my best. Even my best means that sometimes I loose my temper. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I don’t listen. Sometimes I ramble. And sometimes I nag.
I wonder if my mother ever worried that her best wasn’t enough? Because it wasn’t. And now I’ve learned the secret of motherhood and why there’s a better way…
My mother wanted so desperately to be a mother. At age thirty-seven, my parents adopted me. My mother felt she owed me a special maternal duty because she had chosen to adopt me. (I’m sure she meant no offense to birth mothers – obviously, they also choose and really want their children!)
She took her duty very seriously. Maybe this was the crux of my not getting what I needed from her. Owe. Duty. Serious. Where’s the joy and love in all of that? She was dutiful. She signed me up for gymnastics, ballet, horseback riding, piano lessons, everything that was available because that’s what she believed good mothers do. When she saw that our public school wasn’t a good fit, she scrimped and saved and sent me to a private school. You name it; she did it.
Why My Mother’s Best Wasn’t Enough
My mother was a very private person. She didn’t share herself easily. But I wanted her; I wanted to know her – warts and all. Not knowing her created a hole in me. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I knew her very well.
Even if it wasn’t all pretty – which it wasn’t. Her life was painful – with abuse as a child and loss throughout. Sharing that pain was something she just couldn’t do.
Maybe she felt that she had nothing left worth sharing with me? Or that she didn’t want her sweet baby touched by all that left stains on her? I can’t ever be certain. But more than any gymnastics, ballet, or horseback riding lessons, I wish she could have shared herself so that I could have known her. But she locked that life away and slipped into the life of mother.
Just like every mother does, she loved me fiercely with the tools that she had. Everyone has a different set of tools available to them. She did not come from a safe, loving family. She was physically abused. Her sister died at an early age. It was a hard life.
For my mother, parents who were dutiful, serious, and who had a sense of owing her a good life must have been the pinnacle of parenting. That was what she missed out on. It must have been her vision of the ultimate parent. And so she passed on to me all that she felt she missed. She was, to me, her own vision of the ultimate parent.
The Secret of Motherhood
And now, just as my mother did before me, I try to pass on to my boys what I feel I missed. I want to give them joy; laughter; spontaneity (although I’m pretty bad at that one); respect for who they are; a commitment to knowing who they are: warts and all; sharing deeply of myself and showing them who I am: including the not so pretty parts.
I want to give them an appreciation for their uniqueness and individuality – different from mine though it may be. And most importantly, I want to give them love that truly flows to them without expectation of anything in return – unconditionally. Unconditional, unwavering presence and love – joyfully expressed and shared. Before anything else.
Ready for the secret of motherhood? Each mother’s “vision” of the perfect parent is delivered through her personal pair of tinted glasses. Tinted glasses contain history, experiences, and emotional baggage. But, as mothers, we strive to pass on to our children, as best we can, our “vision” of the perfect parent. We each parent in a way that delivers what we feel we missed.
Now, you want to know why that misses the mark?
Here’s Why The Secret of Motherhood Misses the Mark
So here’s the thing, the reason that we are getting it wrong. What I feel I missed may not be what my boys need. It’s what I needed. They may need something completely different. Since the secret of motherhood is that we instinctually pass on what we missed, but we need to connect with our children to discern what they need, not what we needed as children.
So I’m going to try to take of my glasses that are tinted with my upbringing and what I missed. And I’m going to try to be finely tuned in to and connected with what each of my boys uniquely needs of me as a parent. And then I’ll try to deliver the best I can.
We need to deliver ourselves to our children. Even the hard, ugly parts of ourselves that we are not fond of. They need to see us in all our glory and in all our imperfections. There will always be times that we aren’t AT our best, but we are still DOING our best.
So I’m sure that I’ll still loose my temper. I’ll still yell from time to time. I’ll still get so engrossed in something else that I won’t listen. And I’m sure I’ll still ramble and nag from time to time.
But as long as we have connected with our children and figured out what they each individually need from us, we’ll go a long way toward being the parents that they need.