It’s hard not to lapse into platitudes when talking about mothers. Most of us have ’em, but everyone’s experience is different. Mothers come in all ages, in all kinds of family structures. There are as many labor-and-delivery stories as there are humans. Stories of adoption and surrogacy and foster parenting can only hint at the myriad ways children come into our lives.
Once those children do arrive, the variety of experiences only grows. Some see their kids as smaller versions of themselves, while others wonder how this small being can be a math wizard or speak five languages. Children make us laugh everyday; they also make us cry for reasons both happy and less happy.
We get a lot of mixed messages about our relationships with Mom. We’re supposed to grow up appreciating the things she does for us. And then somehow we’re supposed to transform into friends. Where does this appear in the manual, again?
We all enter into this human contract with so much to learn. No one can possibly anticipate what it means to be a parent. No matter how confident we are of what is right for our children, they will invariably and seamlessly point out the loopholes in our logic. And then, perhaps, they will become parents themselves—and realize some of the same things.
Parenting shows us the inevitability of change—and just how much we affect one another. As Mother’s Day approaches this year, I think of how my own mother has shaped my life. Her colorful, extroverted, and inexhaustible self placed a lot of confidence in me, which was inspiring and sometimes a little daunting. As a child I couldn’t keep pace with her social appetite, which might favor two or three different engagements in the same day. I, on the other hand, needed lots of time to run around before sitting with company or being guests with family friends. Looking back I also appreciate how she welcomed my own friends, and expressed her genuine curiosity about what interested them. .
As the youngest child and cousin, I was not around babies very much. I always knew I wanted children, but it was not until my own arrived that I realized what captivating, gobsmacking game-changers they can be. As I gaze into the beautiful visages of my two adult daughters, I wonder about what I got right, where I missed the mark, and what lies ahead. It is my deepest desire to keep finding out.
At life’s midpoint, I’m privileged to see motherhood from both angles. Being the fulcrum in three generations of strong minded women allows me to look backward with gratitude and forward with hope. What can we learn from our mothers and grandmothers? What kind of parents do we hope to be? How can we be good daughters—and also true to ourselves?
Big questions, and well worth examining at any season. If the past year has shown us anything, it’s that change is the only dependable constant. But—if we’re lucky—love and connection can sustain us through the turbulent rhythms of our lives.