Dear Lovely, Four Daughters of Mine:
My mom taught me some good things about motherhood. From you four, I learned some more things about motherhood.
- Babies cry. Prepare yourself for it. They cry. Sometimes lots. And sometimes supper must be cooked while they scream at your feet or a shower taken while they cry safely in their crib. Babies cry. Don’t let it get to you too much.
- Moms need sleep. And babies cry. You find a way to get sleep or you’ll break.
- It’s easier with a helpful dad. Choose sex wisely. Choose the man wisely.
- You’ll always love your children but you’ll resent the extra work they bring. Sometimes you’ll get the two feelings confused. And trust me, it’ll never be confusing love for the extra work that weighs on your mind. Resentment festers. Find a way to move past resentment. You must find a way.
- You’re not alone in this. If you’re brave enough to reach out, you’ll find a friend to go it with.
- Rebellion and defiance in adolescent children mean something. Usually an underlying anger or fear. Anger that mom’s plans always come first. (Well, they seem to to the child, whether they actually do or not.) Fear when parents argue and bicker. (Divorce may be common, but there is not a child on earth, I don’t think, that doesn’t wish their parents could get along and be together.) Anger when the family doesn’t have as much money so she has to wear Wal-Mart bras. Anger that dad has to travel for work and leaves them, their mom, and their siblings behind. Rebellion and defiance need checked, but more importantly they need explored. There is SOMETHING there causing it. Catch it early to avoid having to catch it big. Usually, if I’m a big enough mama to shut up the jawing and start the thinking and relating, often I can put my finger on it.
- Clothes, hair, and a messy mouth don’t matter. Sweet sixteen comes soon enough.
- Kids sleep in eventually. Or at least learn to make their own breakfast and turn the TV on.
- Keep your mouth shut or go get them. If you need your child to do something, get over your bad back and pick them up and put them where they need to be. Eleven years ago I sat and watched a mother at Musikgarten class trying to check her rambunctious 2-year-old by shrilly, incessantly repeating, while sitting Indian style on the ground chatting with her friends, “Ross. Ro-oss. Ro-ooss. Ro-o-oss. ROSS. Ross. Ro-oss. Ross. Ro-ooosss.” Chic. Ross isn’t coming. I decided then and there that was not my style.
For the time that you can, when they don’t obey, pick them up to get them where you need them to be: into their car seat, off the playground, off the table, out of the swimming pool, or out of your friend’s underwear drawer. Simply picking up and physically moving them (or removing them) makes an impression of whose in charge early on. And later on when they still seem to need you, don’t be afraid to go get them.
- Kids get in the way of everything. So do my shoes. And my nose, but I’m still quite attached to it.
- Each stage ends, and you’ll be a pro at one of the stages! Even if it’s at mothering your adult child or being a grandma. Maybe toddlerhood or the tween period isn’t your forte. It’s okay. Stay mentally focused in the game for the win. I wouldn’t do high school again for about anything, but it left me with some great memories and best friends.
Motherhood isn’t a feel-good Disney film. But it is a chance to give security, love, warmth, and nurturing to a wonderful, worthy, precious human being. Your human being. But not yours, really. To give all of you in a new way. A hard way. And to be loved and needed in such a raw, basic way that it usually puts yourself and your expectations totally in perspective. And there will be times when the clash between you and —55555555555555555555555555555-/8865+-111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111′—Whoa! What was that? That was some toddler typing… —Where was I? Yes. A big clash between you and your wants and your needs and the time you have to meet those wants and needs because motherhood feels like it stands in the way. But if you let it stimulate you, challenge you, mold you, and encourage you to find new ways, better ways, more unique ways, more creative ways for you, for your child, for your family–then you’ll find you’re a better teacher, writer, coach, painter, artist, friend, runner, and house cleaner (wink).
You are responsible for something that your child thinks only YOU can do best. Whether anyone else thinks you’re capable or not, your child knows that only you are capable of filling that role in their heart.
Daughters, be strong women. Be strong moms. Motherhood is a chance for feminism at its finest. The world depends on your children.
Support yourself. Support your friends. And I’m here to support you. Thankfully, there’s a big God to support all of us. Whew.