Donning My Mom Genes


motherhood

I’m convinced I was born without the “mom gene.” My hypothesis is confirmed repeatedly whenever I am engaged in activities with my kids. For starters, I’ve never been one of those moms who comes prepared with Mary Poppins’ purse filled with everything but the kitchen sink. Instead, I’m the mom who shows up at a sporting event forgetting to bring sunscreen, snacks or drinks. Yep, you know who I am. I’m the one who lets my kids leave the house in the spring or fall without a sweatshirt and you see them shivering in the fetal position under my jacket as they sit on the sidelines or are at a gathering with friends. I’m also the mom whose eyes start rolling towards the back of her head when around other moms as they talk about recipes and sure-fire remedies for sore throats, poison ivy or engage in the popular topic of identifying lice. My brain cannot process information and I quickly fade away, taking cover in a safe mental space where children do not exist.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids tremendously and could not possibly be more grateful that I was blessed with my two boys. However, I have had to learn to accept that I did all this while suffering from a significant deficiency. Without question, I am typically an epic failure when it comes to the hard-core mom stuff. Sure, I can clip nails (although one of my early attempts landed my then 5-month old firstborn in the ER for stitches), clean wax out of the ears and dispense medicine. I have a first aid kit to tend to minor scrapes and cuts and can navigate my way around Neosporin. But, that’s all folks. That’s the end of the road. I don’t cook meals, I loathe the field trips and I am doomed if left to create a costume. Halloween gives me hives.

Over the years, after packing for more than my share of guilt trips, I have come to accept my lack of mad mom skills and have tried to stop beating myself up. Every trip to the playground used to leave me penitent when the other moms would pull ziplock bags out of their designer diaper bags filled with pretzels or goldfish crackers. I’ve now moved beyond the shame of each and every time I needed to borrow a wipe or a bandaid when one of my children skinned a knee or had ice cream dripping down their face, shirt, hands and legs. It was a quickly learned lesson that I would just never be that person. I’m not that mom. And, frankly, I am in awe of those women who can pull a stick of gum, a tissue, a tweezer or an assortment of other devices out of their bag and turn themselves into MacGyver. I just watch in wonder.

Of course, this does leave me with just a wee bit of insecurity. I can’t help but wonder if I’m not that mom, then what kind of mom am I? Am I just the one who spends all her time working and has missed out on all the milestones and accomplishments? How many more times will I rely upon Facebook to see photos of concerts, field trips or games? I’ve battled these questions for the past 14 years and cringe every time I hear another parent say when they meet me for the first time: “Oh, you’re _____’s mom!!  I wondered if he had one…” Really?

When my children were born, I didn’t really give much thought to what kind of mother I would be. The excitement of my first born’s arrival was surely coupled with typical first-parent worries but I simply assumed I would figure it out. I wasn’t the expectant mom with a birth plan (just get him out as painlessly as possible was my mantra) and I never wrote a manifesto for myself outlining the type of parent – or more specifically, the type of mom – I wanted to be. My main objective was always very clear – to love my kids and send them out into the world feeling confident and secure. If I was being truly honest with myself, I couldn’t guarantee that I had much more than that to offer. I had no real mommy role models because my own mother was deficient in her own ways and all the other moms I knew were glorified from afar and I didn’t get to see the true inner workings of how they pulled off what they did. I was never even sure that all those moms who were ever-present and running the PTA were, in fact, the best moms. The true test, of course, was how their kids turned out in the end and how the kids felt about their moms when all was said and done. Ultimately, while I hated when my own mother said this, I now know she was spot on  – you do the best that you can.

I joke about my obvious shortcomings with friends and they kindly remind me of all the good things I do for my kids. I talk with more seasoned moms who have seen the fruits of their labors with grown children and they reassure me that my children will be ok. And, there is no doubt for me that I am an incredibly loving and supportive parent and play a critical role in my sons’ lives. I just don’t fit the traditional Carol Brady or Harriet Nelson or whomever the most current ideal mom role model is. I don’t fit into any of those archetypes. Someone recently made a comment to me that my children follow the course I set for them and I thought long and hard about that because it seems unreal to me that I have set any course. Every morning I wake up and feel like I am winging in. I have no idea where the day will take me when it comes to my kids and I hope and I pray that I will have the right answers and the wisdom to guide them as they blaze their own trails. I have never dictated (nor has my husband) their journeys and have only encouraged the interests they have demonstrated a passion for. We set ground rules for behavior and have laid out our expectations as it relates to respect, hard work and honesty but, beyond that, the road has always been theirs to explore. I have loved my children with every ounce of my being and remind them frequently how much they are loved and supported. And I also remind them that if the requisite ingredients are not in the house, I might not be able to procure cookies, cupcakes or a last-minute cake. I simply don’t have those skills. I have taught them about responsibility and how to respect women. My very existence is evidence of what is possible for women who seek fulfillment both professionally and personally.

My sons are now a teenager and a tween and neither of them think those mad MacGyver skills are all that necessary any longer. My ability to drive and withdraw cash from my bank account ensure my superhero status in their lives. After all, my younger son proclaimed that MOM stands for Made Of Money. For me, however, I am still working on my cloak of invisibility during those recipe swap, illness remedy and homework discussions. I long for a day when I can feel equally proud of missing those games (because of what amazing things I might be doing when I am not there) as I feel when I manage to whip up a batch of brownies without having to make three trips to the grocery store. A girl can dream…

Tis the Season of Endings


seasons

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.  —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have begun to refer to this past month or so as the “Season of Endings.” While it feels like this has snuck up on me, I have been staring down the barrel of this gun since last year. As the school year wrapped up in the spring of 2014, I telescoped out to the spring of 2015, imagining what it would be like to see both of my boys moving up and entering new stages of their lives. We’ve been through this before with the older one but it was a subtle ending, a minor shift of the universe as he ended his time in the secure blanket of elementary school and made his way to the middle school, embracing the roller coaster ride of adolescence and hormonal inconsistencies. It seemed like a small moment at the time because the younger one was still, seemingly, our baby and was providing a safeguard that we had a long way to go before our lives as parents would truly shift and our children would begin their not-so-slow ascent towards adulthood.

This year, both our boys will move up. The younger one finally leaving the pediatric nest of grade school and the older one beginning the final stage of his mandated academic career as he prepares to rise up to high school. I’m incredibly proud of both of them, shining stars in their own rights. And, I am surprisingly overwhelmed by how their rapid maturity and readiness to embark on their new journeys stands in stark contrast to my desire to push them back into the womb. They are navigating their journeys with confidence and competence that is equally impressive and humbling. As their mother, I struggle to strike the proper balance of nurturing support and respecting their growing boundaries. It’s an obstacle course that I trip over daily, rewarded with eye rolls, exasperated sighs and complete insolence. My older one has fine tuned his ability to tune me out and disregard my wishes while the younger one is watching carefully as his mentor blazes the trail.

For my older son, this year is transformative. As an athlete, he is moving into a much more serious period of his young athletic career. He has his eyes set on playing in college and is beginning to understand the implications and obligations that come along with that goal. He is constantly weighing his options, looking at potential outcomes and examining consequences. I wonder where he learned this and question if his father and I truly had the capacity to teach this to him when this was never ingrained in us. He is remarkable. He shared with me this week that the girl he had asked to accompany him to the 8th Grade Dinner/Dance was  just a friend because the girl he wanted to ask would be more than a friend and he didn’t want to get involved with someone who was going to be leaving for the entire summer to go to sleepaway camp. It took me a few seconds to process his comment and I had to quickly decide if I was immensely proud of the logical and mature thought process or if I was saddened by his lack of whimsy. Either way, I respect his decision and admire that he made one that he is comfortable with. I sensed no regret or disappointment. He had not settled. He made a choice and was secure in that. Wow. That just happened.

The season of endings is truly bittersweet. And, I have found, it is seeping into other areas of my life as well. As I prepare to celebrate my boys transition to the next stages of their lives, I am carefully trying to not overshadow their moment. However, I know myself well enough to realize that when life is changing beyond what I can control, I will look to control other types of changes in my life. I try to ease my discomfort with everything moving so fast and my inability to keep up with it all by focusing on the areas of my life that I can control and change at my own pace. Our lives – mine in particular – is always in a state of flux and I never sit still for too long. As I have often shared, change is both scary and exciting to me. I crave it and I try to control it. I dread it and I am wildly anticipatory of it. Like my boys, who are ready to move into new schools, make new friends and partake in new experiences, I grow antsy with the familiar, seeking out new experiences and interactions. I love the thrill of the new and the opportunities and adventures that come along with that. I love to reinvent and refresh and am always looking for ways to introduce that into my life. Whether it be a new job, a new friend, a new hairstyle or a new hobby, I am always trying to find ways to create new and interesting experiences for myself. And, like with the Season of Endings, I do this while struggling to let go of the old. I hang on, often far too long, failing to detach from what I have outgrown. My metaphorical closet is stuffed with clothes and shoes that no longer fit or are not in style.

During this Season of Endings, I commiserate with fellow parents who are bracing themselves for all kinds of new adventures as our children embark on the next leg or their journeys. We love them and support them with tears gently spilling from our eyes as the umbilical cord stretches just a little bit further, getting ready to finally split off. We watch our babies grow a little taller, talk a little deeper, walk a little faster as their little hands slip from ours and they assure us that they can cross the street on their own. We hold our breaths as they step out from the curb, trusting that we have reminded them again and again to look both ways and take care of themselves. We beam with pride as they take long strides in the crosswalk, making their way to the other side, waving proudly to reassure us that they did it. They made it all by themselves. And we weep a little more while feeling grateful and proud.

Each day that passes and I endure another element of the Season of Endings, I realize that we are quickly morphing into the Season of Beginnings. It’s a new road and a new chapter for all of us.