Yesterday I spent the most perfect day with my son. When I talk about my kids, often it is my almost six year old girl. After all, as a young child who is constantly in motion, she is the one who gets most of my attention. My son though is often what I think of as my experiment child and I mean that with all love. Born when I was only 19, back in the early 1990’s long before Google and internet were part of the common vernacular, I can say I did not obsessively parent him.
To be honest by the standards of mothering today, one might say I was a questionable mother. He was not breast fed, I used disposable diapers, I practiced the evil cry it out method and yes, I spanked him (recently I found myself apologizing for spanking him to which he laughed and said Ma, forget about it). Looking at how his sister almost 14 years younger is currently being raised, there are a lot of days I am racked with bad Mama Guilt. Then I remind myself that in all fairness I was barely an adult.
My son came home a few weeks ago after completing his first year of college and since coming home there are times when I look at him and my eyes just water in amazement at what a fine young man he has become. Despite the mistakes I have made in the past 19 years, the mistakes that keep me up at night, the one constant since he became earth side is love. I did not plan on becoming a mother, I was a rather ambivalent mother at times but I always loved him. My village was dysfunctional at times but even within that village our love for him was evident and yesterday as we spent the day and evening together in Boston, I realized that all the love he received despite many mistakes along the way has played a chief role in shaping and molding him
Yesterday we took a train into Boston and caught a concert and from the time we boarded the train and throughout our journey, I found myself marveling at how well rounded he has become. Of course a year of college changes a kid, but in the past year I have seen him become more passionate, switching majors from political science to philosophy, I have seen him grow in convictions such as his vegetarianism. I have found myself even surprised when he has sought out my Dad who I freely admit I have at times a rather tenuous relationship with
Last night we sat in Quincy Market him eating his tofu and veggie fried rice and I with my gyros and I sat just wondering how the hell did I get this kid? By all accounts as a high school dropout who was technically a teen mom at 19, the statistics say my kid should be a fuck up instead if I had been half as confident in myself at his age I can only imagine where I might be. Yet this is the child who inspired me to better myself, who recently said he understood the choices I made in going back to school when he first went to live with his Dad so I could better myself and therefore his life.
Many of the fellow Moms I encounter both off line and online have younger kids and in today’s hyper parenting world it’s so easy to get caught up in trying to parent “correctly”. Yet I have become in recent days more convinced that it does not matter what parenting philosophy we follow, the markers that we often use to divide ourselves from those other moms are meaningless. What matters most is that we give our babies and kids pure love even when we are messy people, kids see through bullshit. Instead we give our honest and real selves and this is what shapes our kids. In the past six years with my youngest I spent a lot of time trying to be the” right” type of parent yet in the time I have spent recently with my son, I see clearly that frankly none of that matters. My son does not care about the “bad” choices I made when he was young, what does matter is my love, consistency and presence.
So to any Mom that struggles sometimes to be the “right” type of Mom, I say don’t sweat it! Be you, be messy, be authentic, and be loving. Whether you stay in the home, work out of the home, homeschool, unschool, public school, etc…in the end when our babies are grown, they rarely will care. What they do care about is our love; funny thing is in the end we learn more from them about ourselves than we can ever teach them.
So Mama don’t sweat it!
5 thoughts on “Mama don’t sweat it!”
I know the feeling of regret, although I must admit I have become more lax with each child versus intense. In some ways, my first (born in 1997) got a better deal with a two parent home. After we had three, we called off the marriage, and I had to decide new standards of success for the sanity of everyone. You just can’t, and should not, do it ALL.
Like you, I know with love in the center, everything works out.
Thank you for the post!
What a wonderful perspective! As a stepmom of a 30 something son — I know we all made mistakes — but he has always known unconditional love from all three parental units, Mom, Dad, and me. He’s a wonderful human being and I have felt that same awe that you did with your son. You captured the feeling and the moment so well. Thank you.
I found your blog through your comment on Non Consumer Advocate today. Reading your post this morning about your son warms my heart. As a grandmother who has raised 2 generations of children, I know that pride you feel in a parenting job well done. My granddaughter will be a senior in college this year and it is a joy to see that she has turned into a capable, smart, mature and responsible young woman.
I will be a frequent visitor here…Thanks!
What a lovely coincidence that you should write about this now!
Just a few days ago I had a long conversation with my mother (at her instigation) about her parenting, my (mostly physically absent and completely emotionally absent) father, her regrets about the opportunities she was unable to give me, etc. It’s not the first time we’ve had a similar conversation, but I’ll have it a million times if that’s what it takes to convince her that she was (and still is) an amazing mother. She was also a very young mother, and as I got to be the same age that she was as she was raising me, I had a new appreciation for how challenging things must have been for her and how little she’d let on.
On a similar note, she expressed to me a sense of guilt that she’d not volunteered information about her relationship with my father, and it made me think of your recent mention of letting go of things you thought you’d tell your son when he was 18.
Kids are smart, and kids of loving, smart parents are particularly so. The older they get, the more life they live, the more perspective they get on their parents lives, including the years they were present for but too young to understand. My parents never spoke ill of each other, and I didn’t need them to drag me into their grown up conflicts. Over time, I learned everything I needed to know through my own interactions with them.
I’m so glad you had the opportunity to glimpse this in the midst of raising another little one — there is and will be plenty to worry about, but hopefully you can cast off some little part of the burden knowing that just being the conscious, committed, loving mother you are is enough to result in an awesome kid, no superhero cape required.
Do I get royalties or something for this?
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