“Am I a bad mom?”
I grew up witness to motherhood as simultaneously fierce and beautiful, gentle and brave. I also bore witness to how few people seemed to recognize the power and grace of the profession.
People frequently attacked my mom for what they described as her poor mothering. They often did this in front of my siblings and me. Others, they did it outside our presence, leading her to cry as she recounted their scathing words to us later. “Am I bad mom?” she would sob.
When I was little, I would hug her and say, “You’re a great mom!” My answers changed as I grew. “It’s too early to tell,” I’d reply. “The answer will be in what we go out and do with our lives, and how we do it.” Sometimes this answer made her sigh. It wasn’t as gratifying as an enthusiastic, “Yes, you rock!”
One strong sense of self
More often, she’d chuckle and tell me how lucky I was to have such a strong sense of self. Much of that grew directly from her loving support. Some came from watching how cruel people were to her because they could get away with it. What could an impoverished single mother of four possibly do to retaliate against them?
I saw how little people’s judgment had to do with truth. I saw how their actions and words changed depending upon the relative power they perceived in people around them. I vowed I would never tie my sense of self worth or accomplishment to the frequently ill informed opinions of passersby. “Your belief is irrelevant” became my catchphrase.
My mom died of cancer four years ago. I think of her often and wish I could have one more chance to answer her. I can’t tell her anymore, sadly, but I can tell you a little about what made her a stellar mom, hoping that you might find in my words reflections of things that make you, too, a light that will endure through generations of loving memory.
Her advocacy: She feared no one when it came to her children’s health and safety. Her advocacy helped us believe we were worth loving and fighting for.
Her love of reading: She read to us often, took us to the library and bought us whatever garage sale books she could afford. She taught us books would fuel our imaginations and that imagination would be our key to escaping poverty.
Her passion for forgiveness: She hated it when any of her kids withheld forgiveness, explaining unforgiveness was more apt to be our own downfall than anyone else’s. In urging us to forgive even those who wounded her with their careless, needless words, she taught us not only to forgive but also hope that better was possible.
Her love: Four years without her in body and more than that without her in sound mind, I walk tall knowing I am the daughter of an Amazon. Through good and bad temper, relative abundance and scarcity, we never lacked for love. No matter how many years she is gone, she will live on in her countless words and acts of love.
Not all will see the power of motherhood. What they do or do not see is unimportant. There is great beauty in the gifts a mother gives her children. No ill or misguided words could possibly change that to her children, she is mother. Healer. Champion.
What do you remember most fondly or value most about your mother?
What parts of her do you actively share with your kids?