My children have the perfect mother. Let me explain before you throw your computers across the room in disgust at my boasting. I, myself, have plenty of imperfections. I have strengths and weaknesses like any other human being, but luckily for me and my little family so do several other women we have the privilege of counting among our support system. Some of these women are a part of our "inner circle" and some of them I am only able to see their parenting expertise from afar. This being one of those instances when facebook can be a good thing.
As mothers, we have plenty of times in our lives when we find ourselves second-guessing our choices for our family. It can be something as small as the proper veggies for a well-balanced dinner in which every member is well-groomed and sitting politely around the table, or something as big as making a life-saving decision for one of our children. Either way, at some point, we are inevitably going to come up short. What I am learning (the hard way) is that we actually have very little control over either of these things. If you could promise to provide such wholesome veggies as broccoli and spinach every night of the year, or will your children to thrive simply by loving them, mothers the world over would never know defeat. However, this isn't the case, and eventually, we all know it. The upside? We get to do all of it, together. Each of the mothers I'm about to mention has her own individual strengths, and I'm not ashamed to say that I've drawn from their strengths many times in my life. I may not have it all together on any given day. I may not know exactly how to provide for my family's needs every second of the year. But, luckily from me, on those many days that I fall short, I can take a cue from my "Sisters."
Here are some of my Sisters in no particular order:
Kate- This is one of those women whom you can always count on for at least one great laugh during any conversation. But, one of her greatest "hidden" strengths is her ability to see that humor in her children. We all know there are times when our kids are telling us one of their 600th stories of the day and we just sort of glaze over at the sound of their voices. However, if any one of Kate's children gives her a reason to laugh, they get her absolute full attention. And, not surprisingly, she has one of those amazingly robust, infectious laughs. Humor is something she has passed on to her children, but without taking credit for it, she encourages her family to see the funny side of life.
Melissa- She is the quiet mother, who leads by silent example (which is pretty incredible because the woman has FIVE children). You would never know it though, because she always seems to have it "together." I know that we don't always have everything together at any given moment, but even if she's faking, no one does it with more style and class than this Sister. She never puts one child's happiness over another. Each of her children obviously feels a special connection to this amazing woman in their life. She absolutely will not sacrifice family time to satisfy the hustle and bustle of "getting to the top" like so many American families find themselves doing. And, this is no easy feat because her children happen to be incredibly gifted in the area of athletics. Many would push their offspring to the brink of a nervous breakdown by age 8, just to prove that their child is "the best" at something. Not Melissa. That isn't her style. No child's accomplishments/gifts get more attention than anyone else's. And they will be better people for it.
Ruby- This Sister and I have a special kind of mothering relationship because we live right next door to one another. We've seen each other dressed like a million dollars and our families falling in line accordingly so that everything looks absolutely perfect on the outside. But, we have also seen each other on those days when make-up and bras are sort of optional and we can barely find the energy to brush our own hair let alone make breakfast for our kids. We share stories of exhaustion and frustration with kids and husbands almost daily. (We women need that kind of unconditional support from a fellow Sister). However, no matter how frustrated or exhausted she may be on any given day, you are almost guaranteed to hear words of love and encouragement directed toward her children. It doesn't matter if one of her daughters is reciting the Gettysburg Address or has just peed in the middle of her kitchen floor. She still finds the compassion to say, "I just love your little face." I have been awed by this simple statement many times. And it reminds me to tell my children how happy they make me just by being them.
Missy- Ahhh, Missy. She is the crazy, wacky mom who is cool enough to allow her children to wear tutus with cowboy boots and Halloween shirts in the middle of June. Some moms allow these moments of expression from time to time, but they are usually limited to days of staying home. Missy would let her kids wear this to a preschool graduation, and no matter how disapproving the looks can be from other parents she will proudly tell her child how amazing she looks. Tell me that not every one of us can use a little bit of that kind of encouragement.
Jenny- This mother of four holds down three jobs, one of which involves helping bring more children into the world and somehow she makes each delivery seem like the most important she's ever witnessed. She creates lifelong friendships with mothers whose only connection to her is that she held their hands while their children entered the world. (She also happens to be the crazy woman who does all this and is the lead volunteer for her children's school activities).
Callie- Luckily for me this one happens to be both my sister AND my Sister. The same qualities of nonchalance and carefree spirit that made me want to KILL her as we were growing up, are the things I try to emulate for the sake of my children. Her kids don't know what it means to have someone tell them to "color inside the lines" or that certain patterns don't match, or that play-doh and finger paint are only for special occasions. Her daughters will always know that it is more important to love your neighbor than it is to get straight A's. They will understand the meaning of acceptance and unconditional love.
Mom- Of course she has her own given name, but I assure you that this particular woman has EARNED the title of Mom. She raised a child with autism when it wasn't a buzzword, when no one had any "answers" or therapy methods. She had to navigate her feelings on her own. She endured pain and heartache as her child failed to miss the social milestones that her Sister's children were reaching right in front of her. And she did all of this while making her two "normal" children feel like life was perfect.
Amy, Jessica, Lynn, Jamie- I put these Sisters in a different category, because they've earned it. Each of these women has been threatened with losing their children. They've had to make decisions for their children that go far beyond deciding which schools are best or which sports teams they should join. They have pulled strength from the depths of their souls, when they were sure nothing was left. They've begged and pleaded to have just one more day of loving their babies here on earth, only to discover just how hard it can be to keep pushing forward on a daily basis. These women have a deeper appreciation for every milestone reached than most. They delight in the tiniest steps forward and look to each other for those stumbles backward. We are members of a club no one wants to belong to, but reach for one another in times of unbearable pain. It matters not at all that I've only actually met two of them.
We may not get supper on the table every night at 5 pm, with all homework done, and a smile on our faces. We may not be a size 2, and wake three hours early in order to get that extra workout in before the family rises. We may not be boasting successful 6-figure careers and balancing a healthy home-life. We may not be doing any of these things on our own, but together we are a force to be reckoned with. So whether you are a new mom just starting out, or a veteran whose children are all leaving the nest you can find that ever-elusive Perfect Mother. Look around you, She is present in all of us.