It’s time to think about Mother again. And then will come Father’s Day. For many of us, it’s bittersweet to revisit our mothers and fathers, either in person or in memory. There are reasons for this.
Good parents understand the challenges and difficult choices in life and don’t obsess about making their children or themselves feel good, but focus rather on helping them make the better choices, many of which can be counter-intuitive and painful to a child.
But in our generation, a parenting trend has re-emerged that inspires some parents to try and create a perfect childhood. This often comes at the expense of the child because of a misplaced understanding of how children develop their own sense of self-worth. The parent manages play dates, obsessive sport and cultural activities, helicoptering into schools and providing competitions or assessments in which the child always excels, even when he or she knows they didn’t.
I remember when I took my older boys and their two pets to a local town pet show. Our goat Otis and our rabbit Texaco both came home with blue ribbons. My boys noted warily that so did every other animal at the show. The desire to send every child home a winner devalued all the blue ribbons the organizers awarded. I remember thinking that my boys would have gotten more credible pleasure from a 3rd place win for either animal.
Turn to nature, if you want to learn parenting skills. There, offspring are pushed out of nests to learn to fly, left on their own when they come of age, but throughout are given the basic elements of parenting: learning, security and nutrition until it is time for them to be independent and fend for themselves.
I remember my own parents with mixed emotions, as do many of us I suspect. There were aspects of my upbringing that were magical and others that were painful. The gradual recognition that my parents carried within them the human imperfections that their parents imparted to them, and then, that many of those flaws persist within me today, is painful. It’s especially difficult to observe a behavior in one of my own children that I bestowed on them by my own example when I disapprove of it within myself.
On occasion, when I remember my mother not at her best, I remember her own mother and imagine my mother as a young girl coping with the harsh and sometimes loveless childhood in which the cult of the male child left her emotionally abandoned. It is this memory that triggers a deep sense of forgiveness and enables again the memories of her that were the magic of my own childhood.
Perhaps the most difficult thing for us to take to heart is that our children will be who we are, not who we tell them to be. So this Mother’s Day, let’s greet, visit or remember our mothers with compassion and joy for they had mothers too.