Monday, May 12, 2014

Belated Mother's Day Thoughts

The boys getting ready to go out for Mother's Day Malts.
While we were sampling some dried fruit, a woman 10 feet away from us spilled her coffee and dropped a box of canned green beans. In Costco, this is a major disaster. It's not like you're just dropping 10 or even 12 cans of beans, you're dropping enough beans to feed the entire congregation of the mega-church down the street. Oliver, Colin, and I walked over to help her pick up the mess and she could not thank us enough. In particular, she thanked Oliver for being so thoughtful and asked him how he learned to be such a good helper.

"My mom! She teaches me to be nice. And so I always try to be nice too."

I don't know what it's been lately, but my kids keep saying things that make me want to cry. I'm sure crazy pregnancy hormones are only part of the problem, because I can't remember other instances of them being so darn heartwarming. In Costco of all places!

I didn't want to bring out the full waterworks in front of this lady, so instead I pretended to be very deeply focused on getting all 1,000 cans of beans off of the floor. After we had finished with our free samples and our shopping, I couldn't stop thinking about how Oliver had said that.

Oliver learned being nice from me! He thinks I am a nice person!  It's the hugest compliment he's ever given me. It made me feel so good.

If there is anything I've learned from being a parent, it is that it is really really hard to just be nice to people. It is especially hard when you have children who form an omnipresent audience, an audience who is building their ideas and values and ethics based on the example you are providing. It is really really intimidating to think that if I want my kids to be their very best 100% kind and loving selves, that I have to be the one modeling that. It's hard. And there are days when I think no one can do this! No one is that nice!
And then I think about my mom. My mom is that nice. My mom can always think of something nice to say about anything.  Whatever I was into, my mom could get behind it. She didn't tell me it was stupid that I wanted to collect a million pieces of trash from the recycling  bin to make "art." She didn't tell me how stupid it was that I wanted to build mazes for my pet rabbit. She didn't laugh when I wanted to design clothes for my cats. No matter what my sister was teasing me about, my mom could always find some way to stick up for me. I can think of a hundred different ways in which I was completely annoying and obnoxious, and my mom just let me be. She never had anything but positive things to say.

When I was terrified of the older big kids on the bus, my mom drove me to school. When I had bad dreams, my mom would come and sit outside of my bedroom door reading a book until I fell asleep. When I got in trouble, I sang a song to comfort myself. It was all about how great my mom is. 

When Oliver was first born, I felt completely overwhelmed by how hard it was to be like my mom. I wanted to do things the same way she did, because I could never have asked for more when I was growing up. Somehow my mom kept a clean house and a never-ending supply of clean clothes in my drawers and good food on the table. She always made the time to take me places. She always let me have friends over. It is hard to think of a way in which I didn't perceive my mom as perfect.

For a long time, I held myself up to her standard. For a long time, I felt absolutely terrible that I just couldn't do it all as well as my mom could. I ball up my fitted sheets in a tangled mess in the closet. My shower walls don't shine. My pie crusts are never so perfectly pinched. 3 days out of the week we eat dinner late because I messed up the recipe or I got a late start or I completely forgot what I was doing.

Eventually, I realized that I had to stop trying to be my mom exactly. Instead, I thought about what she did that was most important: she was kind. She was patient. She was loving. The pie crusts and fitted sheets and punctual dinners weren't what really made her so great; what mattered was that she showed me patience and love. She showed everyone limitless patience and love.

Since that realization, that has been my goal. To have the patience and love of my mother. Even after all of these years, she still has that. When I go over to visit her, she takes endless time with the kids. She doesn't get impatient when Oliver wants to point out and discuss every single picture on every single page of the longest book he can find. She doesn't get impatient when Colin insists on doing everything for himself.  She takes the time to show them things and teach them things. She shows them how important they are to her, and for that they love her more than anything.

Just in case I never told her what Oliver told me this afternoon, I decided I should tell her now. It's a day past mother's day, but it's better late than never. Do you know who taught me to be nice? Do you know who is still teaching me to be nice? In the words of Oliver,

My mom. She teaches me to be nice. And so I always try to be nice, too.

Thanks for that, Mom. Happy Mother's Day.

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