Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day, of course

It's May 9th, and I have a great many women to thank today. I also think I'm being a little bit silly for this, but I feel like a mommy myself a bit this year... I did get up extra early to take care of my baby boy! Yes, I know he's a doggy. No, I won't become one of those dog owners who treats her dog like a child. He's still not allowed on the furniture, after all! I did give him an extra-yummy treat, though; it's a present from my dad and step-mom in Minnesota, so I thought it was appropriate.

But this post is not supposed to be about Lewis. Here are the mothers I have to mention today (oh dear, I might tear up a little...).

My mom. My mother has two daughters, my sister and I, but we've been grown-up for a little while, now. Like most moms, she's heard a fair bit of criticism from her daughters, and she did make her fair share of mistakes while we were growing up. To her credit, she takes responsibility for (most) of her mistakes. She says "I'm sorry," when we need her to. The two most important things about my mom though, are (in no particular order) that she has always done her very best as a parent and that she has always loved us with her whole heart and soul. When I think of my mom, I think of her amazing hands--soft, a little wrinkled now, but always kind. Mom never went to college, and she stayed at home with us. My sister is eleven years older than I am, so that's a lot of years of working as a mom! I can't speak for my sister, but I know that I was certainly a lot of work! She and my dad went through one of the uglier divorces I know about, but she is now very happily remarried. (I love my step-father! More importantly, he loves my mom times a million!) She is now a certified Montessori teacher. Her new job not only pays better, but it also allows her to mother all kinds of preschool children who just love their "Miss Rose"! Now, my mom is not old in years or in spirit, but she is probably past the average age of people starting their own businesses. That hasn't stopped her! She is starting her very own Montessori school! I am glowing with pride, today.

My sister. I can't say enough about how magical it has been to watch my sister become a mother. She was always a mother-figure to me, full of amazing advice about clothes, boys, life. She took me on most of my college visits. She talked me through my first heartbreak. But being motherly to a much younger sister is one thing. Being a mom is so much more! She has a three-year-old daughter and a three-month-old son. She's a professor of psychology. She works harder than anyone I know! Since her son was born, for example, she has had to help her oldest work through the transition ("back-sliding" in potty training, extreme tantrums that may even top the ones I threw as a kid) and she also had to watch, nearly helpless, when her daughter ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. But she is calm, kind, patient and, as always, feisty and tons of fun! I am in awe of this amazing woman.

My step-mother. Where to begin? She adopted and raised, I believe it was six, children, all of whom suffer from fetal alcohol children. While she has never had biological children, she is an incredible mother to these adopted girls, all of whom are grown. She was a maternal figure to many of her students while she taught middle, then high school. She took care of her first husband during his struggle with early-onset Alzheimer's, an extremely rare and terminal condition. After his death, she married my father. Although I was about to leave home for college when they married, she has been an excellent step-mother. I am most grateful to her, though, for the love she has shown my father. A couple short years after they married, my father began to show signs of mental illness. Soon, he could not work and is now on disability. My step-mother retired after a very long career in St. Paul schools, but her retirement hasn't been easy. Still, I have never seen her without a smile; she lovingly cares for my father without complaint or resentment. She sees her mission in life as one of care-taking, something she told me during my last visit. On top of all of this, she makes time to speak with other women whose family members suffer from Alzheimer's. What an inspiration!

I have to add one more woman to this list. I recently reconnected with an aunt on my father's side after a ten-year gap in communication. She, too, has suffered from mental illness for a long time; she and my dad suffered through terrible childhoods, which has taken its toll. Genetics must play some roll as well, or so I believe. My aunt also survived two extremely abusive marriages. For a few years, she even had to bear not being able to speak to her eldest son. We lost touch for many reasons, but not because either of us wanted to "lose" the other. Now that she's in my life again, I am so proud to say that she has managed to achieve a calm, healing life and healthy relationships with all three of her children. This incredible woman lives by the philosophy that she must take responsibility for her actions, no matter what the circumstances surrounding them are. It is that philosophy that has made her relationships with her children so beautiful. I cannot express how much I admire my aunt! She says that children and, now, her grandson, are why she keeps working on herself--she wants to be the best mother and grandmother she can be. After everything she has been through, that resolve shows just how amazing she really is; it would be easy for her to say "it's no my fault" and make excuses. Instead, she takes on the harshest truths and works on what is inside her control--herself. I have always found that talking to her feels healing and wonderful. She's a bit like a mom to me, but she's an amazing mom (and grandma!) to her immediate family.

I could go on to talk about countless other women I admire who are mothers or have been my mother-figures, but I'll end this post here. I love Mother's Day, because it always inspires me to be a better woman, to live by the example of the women who have come before me.

My niece, my sister, me and Mom on my wedding day (March 20, 2009). I'm holding a bouquet that my mother made for me.