One day, not in the next nine months, but one day, I’ll have a little baby (babies?) of my own. I’ll have babies that grow irretrievably into children who play soccer (perhaps play soccer badly if they’re my children) and lose teeth. And it sounds like it’s right before your eyes, but maybe more appropriately, right under my nose, they’ll turn into smelly middle schoolers who aren’t just sassy but also ridiculously annoying. One distant day I’ll have high school kids who will teach me how to make mistakes with fervent, mistake-making zeal, but who will also reteach me how to love so passionately and so unabashedly that maybe I can re-feel with the same sort of ardor. One day, I’ll have adult children, though it’s hard to believe. I don’t know what that will feel like. But I have a little guidance about how I want to handle each phase from the two strongest mothers I have in my life.
Lessons Learned From My Mom:
The Baby Phase: Want your baby so hard it hurts. Will your baby into the universe, even if it takes seven years. Have faith that your baby is coming. Knowing how badly you wanted them will help your baby feel cherished for his/her entire life.
The Childhood Phase: Supply child with a library card and a lot of books, then allow your child to explore every possible talent until they find the one that sticks (even if it’s reading). Demand practice, but forgive and comfort after abysmal recitals. (Wherever possible,) Never look at talent-finding as a waste of money.
The Middle School Phase: Let the poofy hair, thick eyeliner, food in the braces phase work itself out on its own. It all works out on its own; be wise enough to know where a comment will build or destroy self esteem. Enjoy the poofy hair and the braces. You may –and probably should–laugh at your child privately in middle school.
The High School Phase: Happy moms are productive moms, and that can take different forms. For my mom, and likely for me, productivity might mean a career. Work hard and be fulfilled by what fulfills you. Come home and make a new dinner every night, and tell your daughter and son in earnest that your productivity will never ever get in the way of the school play or Senior Awards Night.
The Adult Phase: Let go of “Mothering,” but never let go of loving. A good way to start is to make your kid pay for college. When your son or daughter calls asking for advice, discern whether or not they genuinely seek advice or if they just need comfort. Give advice when advice is sought, and love without restraint. Trust that it will all turn out ok.
It all turned out pretty darn ok for you mom, in all three of your children. Thank you for being such a good mom. I sure do love you. Thank you for making and shaping me.
Of course, I didn’t see Fawn, my mother-in-law through as many phases of life, but I’ve heard enough from her kids and seen enough home videos to have learned a bit from Fawn too.
The Baby Phase: There’s never too many children in a delivery room, and having (LOTS OF!) children in a delivery room is nothing to panic about. Introducing each family member to one another right away can build a sense of family and responsibility quickly and powerfully.
The Childhood Phase: Remain calm, collected, and curious with your children. If your child wants to descend to the bottom of a giant crater in the earth to pull back a cool-looking rock, take the time to indulge in that curiosity. Be genuinely proud that they pulled a giant rock out of the crater, and genuinely interested in what made that rock worth retrieving.
The Middle School Phase: Take an interest in your kids’ talents by carting them to lessons, listening to them practice, and encouraging them at a young age to perform at their very best levels. Even if they don’t thank you in the moment, they sure will be glad later (and so will their spouses who are impressed with musical ability).
The High School Phase: Advocate for students where teenagers are still learning to do that for themselves. Be your child’s fiercest Momma Bear. Where there is an injustice, teach them how to fix it. Make sure your child knows how to assert themselves in the world as opposed to being passive recipients of life.
The Adult Phase: Sometimes the best way to show your kids (and kids-in-law) that you love them are special baked goods (specifically fudge and seven layer bars), the continuing of family traditions, and a Sunday night phone call. Even as an in-law, I can remember the tradition and legacy of love your family has with you at the helm. Homemaking is not just a calling, it’s a talent, and you have honed and magnified it in every sense.
I love all this advice. Your writing is beautiful.