On Being a Parent: Not-So-Perfect Masterpieces
The month of Mother’s Day has arrived again. Ann Jarvis, the founder of this popular holiday, spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar because of its commercialization. I would have sincerely been on her side. One of the best things a mother can do is give her child good memories, and the best thing a child can do in return is to show Mom heartfelt gratitude; no commercialization is needed.
My own mother was a writer. One of my favorite writings of hers was a piece called “A Memory”:
“After dinner we children were sent to play. But I stood at the window. Daddy took some violets from a vase and pinned them in Mama’s hair. She put a record on the Victrola and they waltzed to a minuet. Mama’s face was close to Daddy’s. When the music stopped, they kissed. Daddy whistled as he led the mules away to plow the back forty. Mama hummed as she washed the dishes. This was their wedding anniversary.” — Gertrude Smith
My mother was in her 60s when she penned those words, and would still smile when she remembered that moment between her parents. Sometimes, we parents believe it’s those over-the-top vacations, weekends spent with grandma, or high school graduation celebrations that live on through the years … and indeed they do. I don’t believe, however, that they trump tender family moments. Those times are not planned; they are heart moments that may not seem that significant until years later when we reminisce.
We parents are a peculiar set of people. It’s almost overwhelming at times when little feet surround us, demanding that we make life better with a cookie or a new toy or a sleepover at a friend’s house. But when most of us eventually become empty nesters, we remember those nerve wracking, never-ending issues and wish we could relive them.
Is a parent ever satisfied? Those little feet that get in our way need new shoes, have to be taught to look before crossing the street, and are the same ones that bring all that mud into the house. Eventually, those feet get bigger and move away.
As a bride, a mother and now a grandmother, I look back at what my mom and dad taught me and my siblings. They really believed what they passed on to us, and continued to live it after I had my own family. They knew the importance of being a good parent, being a good citizen of our little community, and being a proud American. They felt it was extremely important to pass down family traditions and hoped we would follow suit. I suspect they had future generations in mind as they planned family Christmas gatherings, Easter brunches and 4th of July celebrations. They were telling us by their actions: “This is the way it’s done. This matters!”
I shared a few years back a note my oldest son wrote of what he remembered most about growingup. It was the bicycle rides with his dad and me; the times we hung out at a nearby park; and the peanut butter sandwich I always had waiting for him after school. Such simple pleasures!
Recently my middle son, Jason, told me the thing he regrets most about his growing up years was that we didn’t have enough family time, that I was always at the office working and his dad worked away from home.
As for my youngest son, he calls home more often now; it’s been a while since we’ve been together.
Mother’s Day, 2017. My sons will do it Ms. Jarvis’ way and keep the day simple with an “I love you, Mom, Happy Mother’s Day.” They are living the values they were taught and that’s good enough for me.
Don’t think for a moment I would turn down a box of chocolates, though.
“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”
–George Santayana, author, poet