I'm Skyping with my friend Marie the other day, and as we're solving the world's problems, the subject turns to the upcoming May 8 holiday celebrating moms. We're both moms of now-adult children, so it makes us a bit reflective on the subject. She says, "I always said the perfect Mother's Day gift would be a crystal ball... The perfect gift you could never have."
"Hah! No kidding," I reply.
But what if there was? What if we could make an imaginary crystal ball, a shining orb of mom-wisdom? Stuff we wished we'd known when we were newbies. So we talk, and compare notes, like we do.
You can't ever know the future, we agree, but life also isn't as random as we think. I may not know when or if or how badly your first toddler will hurt themselves while experimenting with toddling. But odds are they will. There's little doubt that during their growing up years you and your kids will engage in tug-of-war over clothing, hair, friends and a multitude of other choices they make. There will be moments of both pure joy, and pure hell, and they may come in rapid succession.
As they turn into adults and you go through the sometimes painful process of separation, you'll feel like a freshman in the school of motherhood all over again. It took me a long time to get the difference between the roles of parent to a child and mother to an adult. As Michael Grose says, "You may grow out parenting by making yourself redundant but mothering is something you never grow out of." It's not a job; you can't be fired, even when you might wish you could be. It's an immutable fact of your being; a lifetime calling, with the reality that most of what happens is out of your control.
Here are five predictions that I would make as an initial deposit into that imaginary crystal ball:
Prediction No. 1: You will waste time and energy worrying about something that might happen if they decide to do x, or y, or z. Whatever you're currently worrying about related to your first child, your worry will not change it, fix it or improve your relationship with your child. There are infinite possibilities, and you can't think of them all. And even if you do, so what? As Marie suggests, most of the things you think will happen, just don't. And while you might automatically think of all the disasters that could befall, it's possible, just possible, that good things will occur instead. More so if you actually have positive thoughts instead of negative ones, which you will if you know about and understand how the laws of attraction work. Worry is can be addictive; once you board the Worry Train, it's hard to force yourself to jump off mid-ride. So don't buy a ticket in the first place. Worry is a wasted and damaging emotion.
Prediction No. 2: No matter how great a mom you are, you will at various times be dismissed, forgotten, not acknowledged, yelled at, and/or ignored by your kids. This sucks. And it can be even more pronounced if you're a single mom, as I am. There's no dad around to shake his finger and say "Don't talk to your mother like that!" with that look. There are times you stand flat-footed, nose to nose with your kid and it's a staring contest--whoever blinks first loses. If you're not good at boundaries, or don't know what they are (like I didn't), learn. It won't just help you be a better parent/mom, it will make you a much better and happier person. As someone once said, you can't force someone to respect you, but you can refuse to be disrespected. That's a boundary you set. And it's what kids want and need. I'll never forget the day my adult daughter said to me, "Mom, I needed more structure" (referring to her childhood). She was being thoughtful, not disrespectful. And she was right.
Prediction No. 3: No matter what you do or don't do, your kids will grow up anyway. They may not end up the way you planned, but it turns out, that isn't your plan to make. It's theirs. Your job is to guide them early, teach them what you've learned about life, and make sure they have the tools to figure it out on their own. As Margaret Mead said, "Children must be taught how to think, not what to think." Once that's done, our job then changes from parent to mom, where cheerleading, being there when needed and finding joy in watching them carry on with their lives are your primary responsibilities.
Prediction No. 4: You will rarely feel like you actually know what you're doing, but you'll mostly get it right anyway. I recall a moment when my daughter was about 13 and she had an awful experience. She came to me, I listened, I asked questions, I hugged her while she cried, and she went off to think about it on her own. For once I didn't try to solve it for her; I only gave what she asked for. Later she told me how much it meant to her that I was "there," but not "in her face." It was one distinct moment I remember saying to myself, with relief and gratitude, "I guess you got this one right, sister."
Prediction No. 5: Love really is the most important thing. That probably sounds super cliché. But I really believe that when all is said and done you will have served your kids best by always letting them know they're loved, and by keeping that love at the center of your heart and mind in all your interactions with them.
Maybe if you add your comments, we can create something of a real crystal ball, a gift from veteran moms to rookie moms.
Happy Mom's Day to us all.