Mother's Day is coming up. I'm reminded of this because the girls have apparently been making something at school for me. And also practicing screaming HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! at the top of their lungs. Every. Day.
They continually ask me if today is Mother's Day. No? Is it tomorrow? What about yesterday? Was it yesterday? What about Wednesday? What about Tuesday? No? WHEN IS IT, MOMMY?
See, there's only two days of the week that they know. Tuesday, which is Tumblebus Day at school. And Wednesday, which is when they have gymnastics. They don't know what Saturday or Sunday are... except that they know they don't have to go to school for two whole days and it's AMAZING.
I'm not sure what I'm getting for Mother's Day from them... but with the buildup, we've been experiencing for the past two weeks, I expect it to be nothing short of a diamond tennis bracelet. Or maybe a couple of rocks and a dandelion. Which is pretty much the same thing in my world.
Now that I'm out of the baby-phase of parenting and am raising two very independent and opinionated kiddos, I often have chances to step back and look at my experience as a mother. Which leads to the daily question of whether or not I'm doing it right or if I'm just completely screwing my kids up. I suspect it's the latter because this morning, The Bird tried to tell us that unless we gave her more Cheerios, she was going to keep crying. It is clear to me that my consequences-based parenting is rubbing off on her the wrong way.
I think every mom goes through this self-doubt. And those who say they don't are lying liars who lie.
I also think that whether we realize it or not, we are applying the lessons we were taught as children to our children. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.
My mom and dad stopped by the house last night and dropped of a beautiful hanging basket for Mother's Day. I felt bad because... well, yea... I haven't done any shopping for my mom for Mother's Day, yet. Maybe by Saturday I'll get myself to the nursery and grab something she'd like. But seriously.. Wednesday? I don't operate that far in advance unless it's for chocolate. So, for now, my Mother's Day gift to her is this:
10 Things My Mom Taught Me1 - "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well."
Work ethic is important to my mom and she has instilled that in her kids. She preached it while we were picking worms in the alfalfa field waiting for the sun to come up so we could finally go home and get the mud out from under our fingertips. And she preached it while we were roasting marshmallows over a campfire. In mom's mind, whether it's picking night crawlers to sell to fishermen, cleaning the bathtub, doing your homework or making the perfect s'more... don't waste your time. Do your absolute best and then move on to something bigger and better. This may well be why when I suffer from writers block or if I'm not up to par on my writing I yell: THIS IS CRAP! while deleting the file and starting over. Or why I refuse to make the bed (because I don't think it's worth doing). But it's also why I graduated from college, excel in a career and make a mean s'more.
2 - "Stand tall and proud! Tall is beautiful!"
This was little solace to a 5-8, 98 pound 5th grader who endured such horrific nicknames as Giraffe, Too Tall Paskins, Pencil Legs and Hey! How's The Weather Up There, Dork? But every time my mom saw me slump my shoulders in an effort to conform to the "normal-sized" world I was living in, she affirmed that tall was beautiful and I should never try to disguise it. "Do you know how much I would give to have your height? All those people are just jealous of your height. You're going to be able to do great things because of your height. You're height will never hold you back. Now, please grab that bowl up on the top shelf for me. I can't reach."
3 - "We don't flip the bird. And if we do flip the bird, we DON'T flip the bird to the Bishop."
There were a couple of lessons here: 1) Choose your battles wisely. If you're going to flip the bird, do it slyly while pushing up your sunglasses or scratching your nose. Anything else is just unladylike. 2) If you flip off a church leader - or anyone, really - church doctrine says you're required to clean the toilets for a month.
4 - "When someone says mean things about and to you, it says more about them than it ever will about you."
This little lesson got me through some ROUGH times in school. This lesson taught me kindness because I remembered how those girls (it's always girls, isn't it?) made me feel with their words and actions. Years later, I've had conversations with some of those girls and I found out that when those hurtful things were coming out of their mouths, they were going through some pretty rough times in their lives and they were acting out at the easiest target.... the freakishly tall, skinny girl with the big hair and lisp.
5 - "Life isn't fair."
Sister got the last bean burrito? So? Put on your big girl panties and deal with it. Horse buck you off and Dad made you get right back on that piece of crap? Stop crying and deal. You friend has prettier dresses than you do? Maybe you should pick more worms so you can afford to buy a nice dress this year.
7 - "If a bird poops on your head, let it dry... then you can flick it off with less mess."
And yes... this was her advice to me on a family trip to Mexico 25 years ago when that happened outside a fast-food joint. And she was only 10% kidding. The point is, life can be messy. Don't stress about it. The poop will dry. Life will go on.
8 - "You should have listened to me."
When I was about 4, I decided to walk down to the barn and play with the baby peacocks that had hatched a few weeks earlier. Mom told me not to... and then watched as I disobeyed her and skipped down to the barn completely oblivious to the protective pea-hen that proceeded to swoop down from the rafters beat the living crap out of me with her wings, while scratching me with her talons. I'm not sure how long the beat down lasted. In my 4-year-old mind it was about at 30 minute brawl, but it was likely just a minute before I turned around and ran, sobbing, to the house... bleeding and covered in welts. My mom merely glanced up from her Dr. Pepper she'd been sipping as she watched the battle unfold and said: "Well... I told you so." and went back to her drink. My mom... the antithesis of the helicopter parent.
When my girls freak out about something trivial, I think back to that day. I GOT BEAT UP BY A FREAKIN' PEACOCK, GIRLS. YOU CAN DEAL WITH YOUR PIGGY-TAILS NOT BEING PERFECTLY ALIGNED TODAY.
9 - "Stand up for yourself."
I was taught from a young age that I should be treated just like everyone else. No better. No worse. Just because I was a girl, didn't mean I couldn't do the same things boys did. So... I ended up playing on a Jr. Jazz team full of boys, because there were no girls teams. BTW... feminism was not super popular in rural southeast Idaho in the 80's, which meant that the boys LOVED having me on their team. Like most people, I endured a stupid amount of bullying all through grade school. Big bangs and a lisp will do that to you. But, as I gained confidence due to my abilities on the court, I learned how to stand up for myself. It's what I teach my daughters every day. To be proud of who they are and not to let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do.
10 - "Hi, Bored! I'm Mommy! Go outside and play!"
Bored? Go outside and play! Hungry? You just ate two minutes ago. Go outside and play! Tired? Go outside and play! For the love of Pete! Go. Out. Side. And. Play. Very little of my childhood was spent indoors. We had exactly three channels when I was growing up, but we had about a gazillion animals... domesticated (even the cow that we kept as a pet when its mother rejected it) and those that maybe mom knocked out of tree or captured on the hill and decided to raise as pets. Iggy, Ziggy and Twiggy the magpies (yes, we had magpies and they were awesome.) and Rocky, our lice-covered yellow-bellied marmot. Among several others. The point is, we experienced life. Barefoot and muddy for the most part. And man, do we have some awesome memories of growing up. I want the same for my girls... and with maybe the exception of early morning Saturday wake-ups and throwing on some Sesame Street so Mommy and Daddy can sleep in until a more appropriate hour, we don't let the girls watch too much TV. We're truly pushing the No Child Left Inside philosophy... and it's one that I learned from my mom. She was either fishing or golfing or gardening or knocking baby magpies out of their nests... not watching TV. With the exception of Days of Our Lives.
Happy Mother's Day, mom! Thanks for imparting your wisdom and -isms over the years.
(Also, I did in fact get a dandelion from The Bird for Mother's Day, and some rocks from The Bean. It was a great morning.)