Today is Mother's Day.
All the ads and commercials and newspaper stories pretty much picture every mother as exemplary: one who loves her children (and grandchildren) unconditionally, bakes homemade cookies regularly, knits, sews, or crafts cute things for said children, always volunteers for school and community organizations, is fashionable and slim with perfect hair and skin, and who always, always is even-tempered, would never dream of smacking their precious child's rearend, and knows exactly what to do in pretty much any situation.
Well, guess what. I don't know any mothers like that, and if you do, you are indeed blessed, and you need read no further.
I sure am not that mother or step-mother or grandmother. My mother wasn't either, nor my grandmothers. My daughter isn't.
I made mistakes. I still make them, although because my children are grown, it's not multiple times every day any more. There was not a parenting manual given to me with either child -- the one I raised from age 14 days or the rebellious, angry teenager I got when she was 16 years (a bonus that came with her wonderful daddy who made it all worth it). (If you got one, let me borrow it, please. I want to know what comes next.)
Oprah Winfrey said "Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother."
What makes you a mother is being there: putting your child's needs ahead of your own, even when there are a thousand things you'd rather do than clean up yet another round of barf; going to all the parent-teacher conferences and the sports games and the music/dance/drama performances; fixing a hot breakfast nearly every single morning because you know that it is important for your kid to get the best possible start to the day; listening to the stories of being teased or rejected or ignored or unfriended and giving hugs and 'there, there's even when you have no clue of how to make things better.
It means loving your child, warts and all, when they choose paths you fervently wish they wouldn't go down, and setting boundaries when their own dramas and poor choices lead them into areas you taught them never to go and into which you won't follow them, but you love them even when you hate their choices.
And yes, even when you are tired of being the responsible adult and want
to just get away from everyone and everything: you stay put and you
suck it up and you get over those feelings, and you love, love, love
your child even more. Parenthood is a choice. Always.
There are bad parents out there: ones who hurt their children either deliberately or by neglect. There are mothers who should never have been parents: emotionally incapable of loving anyone, including themselves, or caught in the dark alleys of mental illness or substance abuse, or who have been so poorly parented themselves that they continue that cycle without understanding or seeking to learn that there is another way.
Yet children are resilient. They can overcome horrible childhoods to achieve great things and become loving, giving individuals. They survive the mistakes made by even conscientious, caring parents. Some don't, however: they are stuck in the cycle of blame and rejection and anger, and take it out on others, including their own children, with those resulting miserable emotions and actions spinning out in yet another generation.
I did the best I could where I was with what I had, and I knew enough to seek help when I needed answers. And I knew that loving and being there for my children was the best thing I could do, even at the cost of many tears and heartaches on both sides.
Sometimes it isn't enough, and you just have to live with that when it's all you can give and you've done all you can. And once your child is grown, you must let them go and find their own paths, even when it is difficult to watch and you are oh-so-sure that if they'd just follow your advice, they'd be fine. Uh huh. That's when you must shut up and wave lovingly as they travel along roads that scare you: it's not your journey any longer.
My greatest joys have involved my girls, but so have my greatest sorrows. I think that's true of any mother who understands that parenting is the hardest thing you will ever do in your life, if you do it with all your heart and mind and spirit. And if you can't enter into motherhood accepting that you must do exactly that, that your child's life depends on your doing just that, you shouldn't be one.