I’ve been listening to audiobook WHAT COMES NEXT AND HOW TO LIKE IT by Abigail Thomas, a terrific memoir that nudges me to savor the large and small happenings of life in the moment.
So here’s what’s happening right now; my cats are chasing one another around the house, my youngest daughter is texting me videos of a mother black bear and her two cubs, and my oldest is just home from a job she adores, working with animals.
I love May in Alaska. The daylight, the wildlife, my increasing levels of energy remind me that there are many good things ahead. When June comes, the days fly by so quickly, but right now, summer is something wonderful to look forward to, just around the corner.
If you’re in Alaska this summer, please check out the Downtown Saturday market or Muldoon Farmers Market. Say hello if you see me there! I may be selling signed copies of my book.
I emailed a friend in
recently to bid her Happy Mother’s Day. Normally sunny, her response caught me
off guard when she mentioned how sad this holiday made her. I’d grown
accustomed to being the maudlin one about moms and Mother’s Day.
But when I checked my
Facebook feed, there were numerous tributes to moms lost due to death or
alienation. A few brave moms of deceased children posted their grief. Others were
caring for their elderly mothers who now no longer remembered them.
The day evokes a lot of
emotion for so many of us.
I’d been thinking
about my own mother that week, and about some of the good things she instilled.
My mother fostered a love of reading, which sparked my interest in stories and
in writing. If I asked for a book, I nearly always got it. (I was lucky to have
older siblings who read to me and taught me to be an early reader, too.)
My mom promoted a love
of animals to us kids which is a huge part of my life to this day. She didn’t
easily sustain relationships with pets, or with people, for that matter, but it
was a nice start. And she was a believer in volunteer work, which I have subsequently
True, I’ve written
about my mom’s tendency to dislike the mother role enough to seemingly dispense
of her kids, leaving us later in life to scout one another out as if on at
Easter egg hunt.
Clearly, not every
woman is cut out to be a mom.
It doesn’t help that
we expect so much from them. I can think of no other role so important, or so
scrutinized. The impact of the mothering we receive during our early years
lingers throughout our entire lives, and far into the future if we have kids,
and if they do, too.
Mothers are idealized as protectors: a person who is caring and giving and who builds a person up rather than knocking them down. But very few of us can say our mothers check all of these boxes. In many ways, a mother is set up to fail.-Lynn Steger Strong in What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About.
I’ve been fortunate to have so many different
women in my life who’ve given me guidance and motherly love. I’ve appreciated
that there were limitations to it, and conscious not to overstay my emotional
welcome since these women had their own children and their own lives. From
grade schoolteachers and a college professor to a former roommate and friends’
moms, and later in life, my newfound aunts, I have benefitted from random gifts
of maternal love.
As for me, I’ve made lots of mistakes with my kids. They relied on their own supplemental moms at times to fill in my gaps. And after watching me struggle as a single mom, neither of my kids were moved to become parents themselves, though they’ve provided me with numerous grand-pets.
A few days ago, a crisis
call from one of my daughter’s friends, whose mother passed away, brought it
full circle. She needed someone to just listen, and I got to be the stand-in
mom figure, even for just a little while.
How wonderful it is to know that we can help fill in parenting or mentoring gaps for others. And equally fabulous to think about spending time with little kids one day who may not have a grandparent in close proximity. I like the idea of being a supplemental mom and grandmom.
Expanding the definition of family can be a beautiful thing. It can reduce pressure and feelings of isolation. I felt insecure when my own kids relied on other moms, but I came to understand the great benefits to all involved down the line.
Moms (and dads) are the original influencers, but we can all choose to have or to be supplements to help along the way. It can ease the pressure we put on our parents or ourselves.
A humble thank you to dear Fay for the incredibly generous and unexpected gift to my oldest daughter after reading my last post. My daughter is now the proud owner of a reliable and safe vehicle again.