We all have our days as mothers. We want everyone in our little nest to be happy and well taken care of. Some stay home and make it their priority while others chose to leave the nest and join the work force.
As young girls, we have an idealistic image of marriage and motherhood. We picture husbands looking at us adoringly while our bellies swelled and midnight giggles as a craving-calming bowl of ice cream sits perched on our belly. After delivery, we believe we will leave the hospital in our skinny jeans with a child who has established the perfect latch and the ability to sleep through the night. The reality is that we feel like crap, long for our sexy undergarments and have forgotten that we have two independent eyebrows. While the family sleeps we find ourselves fondling our designer belts in our closets between feedings, recalling nights out with girlfriends before motherhood.
The reality is that life does change when you become a parent, and anyone who tells you it doesn’t is lying through her perfect bleached teeth. We all know the one, the woman who shows up on the playground perfectly healed and coiffed singing about how wonderful her life is. Her husband is perfect and her children are most angelic with their A grades and ability to sort their own lights and darks for laundry by age five. All you can think about while she drones on is whether you might ever have the time to shave both legs on the same day or get a manicure that you don't call a “mummy manicure.” All mothers know about the mummy manicure—when you manage to do one coat of polish before bed, falling asleep with your fingers intertwined on your chest. The best part is that moment of truth when you run into that same woman in a restaurant and see her dishelved—with gnawed off lipstick—trying to convince her children to stay in their seats and eat their vegetables. There is a feeling of inner calm and sisterhood as you point out to her that she has a lump of mashed potatoes in her hair.
All mothers are part of the underground railroad of support. For those of us that have a few more years under our belt we offer the wisdom that it is just a phase and everything will get easier. Personally I believe this is a load of crap. We are just getting in better shape and can take the blows of motherhood better.
Motherhood tricks us. We have these cute little bundles that smell like baby shampoo and yummy lotion. They then leave the nest and go to school, discover dirt and come home with a new word that they learned from “Billy Thompson.” They then become teenagers, close their doors and molt clothing onto their floors by the hour. Spending time with them is like trying to catch the wind with a sieve. The amount of barometers needed to establish a relationship with a teenager is worthy of the weather channel. Good luck with the hormones. Moods swing faster than a Labrador’s tail.
The one thing that none of us can pick up on that we had as children is the fear of our parents. When dinner was finished when we were kids, the parents retired to the den with their glasses of wine as the children finished the dishes. It wasn’t a question, it wasn’t an option, we just did it. We never had the opportunity to go into the den and complain that our siblings were not doing their share or that they said something mean…we just did the dishes. We loved our parents, but were terrified of not doing what we were told. Our parents' generation was gifted with the fear gene. We knew that if we did not do as we were told we would surely burst into flames. They still have that ability, no matter how old we are.
The question that baffles us is how we can instill this fear into our own kids. In one generation we have gone from strict parenting to a form of parenting that would make hippies wince. We have gone from our generation of calling our parents friends formally as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” to allowing kids to address us by first names. Maybe this one gesture has broken down the barrier of respect between adults and children. These kids are addressing us as equals, and we are not. The removal of “Mr.” and “Mrs.” has levelled the playing field. Now that we have created this playing field that looks like the prairies, how do we replant the pillars of respect that make children listen. Kids look at us through half-closed eyes that seem to say that they don’t have to listen to us as they stick out their tongues and run down the hallway.
Why are mothers trying to be friends with their children? Isn’t a parent’s job to be a parent and not a friend?
How can the two mesh? Isn’t our job to teach them right from wrong and how to get up when they fall so when they leave the nest they won’t get pecked to death by the other birds? Does respect and empathy through our kids' eyes begin with our own? Maybe we are not capable of teaching what we ourselves don’t understand.
Our kids are bombarded with charitable gestures at school that support the community. The kids are learning to look past themselves at their school, to reach out and help others. How many of those behaviors are being applied at home? Children need to be taught some things that will teach them how to handle the world a little softer. They need to observe what is happening to someone. They need to turn the tables with their hearts and see the issue from the other person's perspective and they need to figure out how are they going to deal with this in a tactile way that will instigate a positive change.
People act the way they are allowed to act. Treat people the way you would like to be treated. To get a friend you need to be a friend.
I recall a sign posted in someone’s office: Listen. Think. Speak. "Listen" was in a medium font at the top of the poster, "Think" was HUGE and capitalized letters in the centre and "Speak" was in tiny letters below. I have been looking for it for years and I often tell my kids about it. It's such a reminder to listen with both ears, think for a few seconds, and speak your opinion when you are sure of what you are saying.