By NANCY PATRICK
Everyone who has ever lived has had a mother. Different mothers have different philosophies of mothering, but one thing is for sure—only a mother knows the joys and frustrations that accompany her job.
When I was a little girl, I thought mothers were old ladies who bossed kids around and didn’t let them eat between meals or play outside after dark. They wanted kids to say “Ma’am” and “please” and “thank you.” My own mother had her ways of mothering that she had acquired from my grandmother (her mother), and I knew I was in for trouble whenever she got mad.
Later, when I became a mother myself, my opinions of mothers dramatically changed. I decided that mothers really are nice people who are often provoked to anger by children who sneak cookies between meals, track mud on clean floors, and hide a month’s worth of laundry under the bed.
In order to accommodate all the incidentals that happen while rearing children, mothers have to be very versatile people. They are cooks, maids, chauffeurs, nurses, tailors, tennis partners, and best of all, friends and counselors.
My own mother taught me about the third stage of motherhood—grandmotherhood. To my amazement, she never got mad at my son for doing things I would have been in trouble for doing when I was her kid. I observed a degree of tolerance and patience in her as a grandmother that was definitely not there when she was my mother. I have often told my son that his grandmother is definitely not the woman who raised me.
Of course, now that I am a grandmother, I understand my mother’s paradoxical behavior toward my son. When my granddaughter was a little girl, I thought she was perfect. I know all the grandparents reading this will understand my assessment of my little Hannah. She could rummage through the drawers, play with my make-up, bake cookies in the middle of the day (and eat the cookie dough), or have my last, favorite piece of candy. I had time to watch videos with her, ride bikes, read books, or play in the park.
However, as we all know, our little ones grow up to become adults (if we are lucky), and then we learn about another phase of motherhood—that of understanding and accepting our children and grandchildren as real people rather than our idealized vision of them as perfect expressions of our own imperfect selves. They make mistakes and sometimes use poor judgment. They might make decisions with tragic consequences.
Whatever happens in their lives, our love connects us to both their achievements and their heartaches. We are, after all, their mothers and grandmothers in heart and soul.
I have decided that being a mother is really special—the pleasant with the unpleasant. After all, who but a mother gets to be a little girl, a woman, a mother, a grandmother, and even a great-grandmother? What could be better?
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.