Ten Times When I Feel Like Mother of the Year

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When I was expecting my first baby, I had grand plans for how the next eighteen years or so would play out. Well, maybe not all that grand, your basic first-time-mom stuff. You know, well-behaved children who would memorize lines from Shakespeare by the age of five and act out scenes from Henry V for our family and friends. I imagined that my children and I would spend sunny afternoons roaming the nearby woodlands and meadows, identifying native plant life and wild birds, whilst munching on apples from our own organic orchard. I dreamed that our home would be filled with great literature, classical music, and inspiring works of art - both professional and those created by my children. And of course, I assumed that I would be ever-patient and always available to read, play, or solve any problem.

My plan would have worked too - if it weren't for the kids. Okay and me. Turns out I'm not all that patient, nor am I much of an apple farmer. Our apples come from the store - sometimes organic, sometimes not. Instead of reading Shakespeare when they were small, we read Good Night Moon and Make Way for Duckling and Hank the Cowdog. Our home is filled with great literature - and plenty of not-so-great literature too. Classical music? Does Fleetwood Mac count? I do keep a copy of The Audubon Field Guide handy to identify any birds that come to our feeder. Of course, I am the only one who cares, but my list of interesting bird sitings is growing.

Considering my high expectations, it's amazing how quickly and easily I settled into mediocrity. It has been nearly twenty years since the birth of my first child. By the fourth baby, my expectations were considerably lower.

Still there are those little moments, those glorious little moments, when I feel like all my hard work is paying off and my dreams are coming true - not my original dreams but dreams nonetheless. Here are ten times when I feel like Mother of the Year.

When they eat something healthy
Over the years, I have bribed and threatened. I have hidden spinach in brownies and carrots in the pasta sauce. Now that my kids are older, I don't always have to hide the veggies. They will eat salad if it has plenty of dressing and broccoli if it is smothered in cheese. Hey! That's progress. I have also gotten better at being sneaky. Kale, banana, peanut butter, chocolate smoothie, anyone?

When I can answer their questions My eleven year old has always been inquisitive. But instead of the types of questions he asked when he was little, like "Why are you a girl?" or "Why does cheese taste good?" now his questions are much more sophisticated. When he was a pre-schooler, he often asked questions that had no answer. Now he asks question that I don't always know how to answer. I do my best with the deep philosophical stuff. But when he asks things like "Why do we have a leap year" or "Who was Ronald Reagan?" or "What did Bon Jovi sing?" that's my moment to shine.

When I nail it A couple of times a year with each of my kids I go all out on something. I throw terrific birthday party. I find the perfect Christmas present. I make (or buy) an awesome Halloween costume. I take them to a concert. Or I host a super fun sleepover. I like to think that in years to come, this is what they will remember. When they think back on their childhoods and teen years, I'm hoping these memories will spring to mind and not times that I have forgotten to sign permission slips, buy cupcakes for the class party, or pick them up from school.

When we all leave the house on time Can there be a more satisfying feeling than pulling out of the driveway a full twenty minutes before we have to be at school? When that happens there are high fives all around, and I hear the We Are the Champions in my head as I pull into the parking lot.

When someone compliments my kids' manners Okay, yes. There is a better feeling than getting to school on time.

When we have sparkling dinner conversation
I'm sorry to say that there are many nights during the week, that we don't all sit down to dinner. We have ballgames or band concerts or meetings. There are also those nights when we do sit down together, for twenty minutes to wolf down some spaghetti or casserole, but soon everyone dashes off to do homework or go out with friends. Then there are those evenings when we linger. We talk about politics and religion. We tell stories. We reminisce about old times. And we laugh. Those nights are our best nights.

When one of my kids cleans up something without being asked Okay, so I have very little actual experience with this one, but I imagine that it would make me feel like I had won some sort of Mom lottery - or that my child had been abducted by aliens and replaced with a changling.

When we find a movie or TV show that we all agree on When that happens, not only do I fell like I won Mother of the Year, but I feel like writing Netflix a thank you note.

When one of my children quotes classic literature or a great movie So, we didn't read as much of "The Bard" as I would have liked when my kids were small, but we did listen to some good Shakespeare for kids CDs in the car. Just the other day I did something silly, and one of my kids responded with a well-timed, well-executed Shakespearean insult paraphrased from A Midsummer Night's Dream, "Lord, what fools these Mommies be!" I thought I would burst with pride. I was equally proud when weeks after watching O Brother Where Art Thou?, one of children referred to my husband as the Pater Familias.

When they all get along My daughters cuddled up together watching a movie. My boys rough housing good-naturedly. The big kids going to run errands together. The little ones playing a board game. This. This is what I really dreamed of when I imagined what my family would be like.

I've never met anyone who actually won a Mother of the Year award, but if such a prize exists, I think it should go to every mom who recognizes that having a perfect family isn't the goal of parenting. A Mother of the Year is actually any mother who manages to find joy and laughter and happiness amid all the chaos and craziness of raising imperfect kids.


This post originally appeared on Ten to Twenty Parenting.