Today, I am a mother of grown sons, a grandmother and a great grandmother. Looking back, I recall things that I did or, better yet, didn’t do and wonder how could I have done better. In general, I believe we benefit from evaluating our work or actions to discover both the good and the things that could have been handled better. That said, as the distance grew from my young mom self and where I am now sometimes seems to only point out my failures. Let me explain.
With the creation of Facebook and other social media outlets I see posts of young mom’s taking their children hiking, biking, to summer reading programs, museums and such creative outings. When seeing their summers filled with activities it makes me feel like I fell short and should have pushed to do more. Yes, we did zoo’s, swimming and oh the countless hours at the soccer field but what was I really providing for my sons?
Some of the time I was a single mom, almost all of the time I was a working mom and all the time I truly tried to do the best that I could. Now, however, looking back, I can’t help but think -I should have read more books at bedtime to my sons. Couldn’t I have done more craft projects to encourage their creativity and played more games-oh how I hated to play games, but I could have done so for them. Couldn’t I have just managed Monopoly a few more times? Surely, I could have endured Checkers for them a bit more.
Whenever we look back, we can almost always question ourselves, but is it fair? Now, no longer a young mom, I have learned a lot. The pressure to be perfect parents as society implies really isn’t possible. Many moms work long hours, or more than one job while trying to be everything to their parents, partners and children. Although a humble goal, it is not a realistic one. Doing our best is really what is required, “our best” not the impossible.
Recently, in conversations with my sons, I was overjoyed to hear that perhaps where it counted the most, they felt I WAS there for them, supporting them even when called to the school for a “happening” (and there were many with three sons). I believed them until someone proved they were at fault and then worked to help them understand what they did wrong and to own up to it. It was important to me that each one would be kind and considerate young men. I told each one to “follow their dreams, and to believe they could obtain it, just be you -that’s enough because you are uniquely you and wonderful.
Sometimes, their dreams terrified me, such as the youngest who became a Marine and fought in a war., the oldest who dreamed of being a performer and did as I watched him swallow fire for an act that he performed,all while my heart beat in fear. My second son, who did not inherit my gypsy genes, dreamed to stay near home and have a family. In addition to a very successful career, he became a great father and grandfather and cares for his family and community. In seeing the amazing men they each became, I realized that perhaps just sitting and listening when they needed me, encouraging them when they needed a hand up and loving them unconditionally was my best.
Every young mother must find her own way. There is no perfect road map, find your path for this wonderful journey. Books, museums, camps, endless activities are fabulous or simply fitting in the little things that make a child feel loved and teaching them to be good human beings will be what you can offer. My sons accepted what I could offer and excused me for the things I couldn’t. Teach love, gratitude, forgiveness and acceptance of others, in this time and space it will carry them a long way.
One thing they do still recall with a definite lack of joy, thanks to an all too often tight budget, is too many “Mrs. Paul’s Fish Stick” dinners. I dare say they have never had one since leaving home!