There’s no universal template for a child’s happiness.
Happiness, this is what I wanted, yearned for, and dreamed of growing up…and believe it is what my boys want, yearn for, or dream of – but it’s not my job to figure out how to attain it for them. Who they are and what they want is only something they can figure out. Each may blame me thirty years later when various dysfunctional discussions with their therapists arise. Oh well!
Motherhood has taught me plenty.
Lying in my bed next to the window overlooking a lush treescape, I would write out the life I planned to lead when I grew up and gained control. That battered, lavender-colored notebook in which I plotted my future is tucked in a plastic storage bin somewhere in my garage. It took me years to understand, at any point only I had the ability to claim that steadfast confidence in my ability to change my circumstances.
For a long time, trusting people was not my superpower, but trusting myself always was. I grew up in a broken household. Let’s be honest, we all had some form of deviation from social norms swirling around our dinner tables. Even as a young child, I believed in my mind, my resilience and ambitions. I have never been afraid of too many things in my life, but failure to act and achieve was one of them. Becoming a mother at the age of twenty-five forced me to think about all the things I would never do as a parent. All the ways I would be better and do better. I had a determination to create the home life for my children I wished and wrote about growing up.
My identity as a mother is never fixed; in fact, it’s likely to change in ways that surprise and delight daily. Having children has taught me to see beyond my suffering. The person I turned out to be after the first year of motherhood is not the same person I became after Year 2, 12 or 21. With both boys grown and flown, and in honor of Mother’s Day, it felt right to reflect on how my messy, and gloriously complicated my story showcased the identity of my motherhood.
Children are like seeds of possibility. I heard this in one of those weekly church services my mother dragged me to. This statement resonated with me later when my role of a parent became clear. I was to help them understand it is possible to do the things you want in life and be who you want to be. It took time for me to eliminate the need for myself over the years and growing up to be picture-perfect – to have all the answers.
No matter how much I loved both my boys, I would make many mistakes, that may somehow scar them. Many mistakes, I most likely would not even know I was making. That confident control I exercised over my entire life felt halfhearted when I became in charge of raising two human beings. Both witnessing me and all my flaws daily, while their person-hoods were being formed. No pressure to perform there! Empathy entered for my adolescent parents and I recognized everyone is doing the best they can with what they had been given.
Motherhood can be a community of helping hands, but hands we have to reach for sometimes. In our DNA, are hundreds of mothers who came before us. We stand ahead of hundreds more, because we too, will survive this challenging time and our children will inherit our choices. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, I learned. There is no shame in asking for support. It takes a special kind of bravery that can only come from humility and surrender. Which is where the African Proverb, it takes a village to raise a child must have originated from. Over the years, I try be of help and ask for help. There have been wise women and a handful of emotionally intelligent men that I have entrusted with my vulnerabilities and shared my burdens.
Motherhood has taught me what I dreamed of and wrote in my journal, but what I did not realize – it was never meant to be accomplished alone.
This Mother’s Day and every other day – I tell both boys, rather fully-fledged men how much I love them, how much they mean to me and how each have changed my life for the better. I also own up when I make mistakes and embrace my past. I hate to dishearten them, but the dim hum of reality; disappointment is a normal dysfunctional family behavior. This to me has been one of the most memorable moments of being a mother – shaking that need to be perfect.
I am content when I see my boys smile. When I see them happy – I’m happy. This is what thinking like a mother looks like to me. We are all in this together.