My mom just turned 70! Her whole birthday weekend was fun—a family party for thirty of us at her house on Friday night (we’d sent her to the beach for the afternoon while we decorated and baked) and then a surprise brunch the next morning with all of her best friends.
My Aunt Mary asked if I’d say a few words about my mom at the brunch and of course I said yes, knowing I wouldn’t have a hard time thinking of things to say. On her actual day though, I was a total wreck! All the faces at the extra long table were smiling, and I’d written my thoughts out ahead of time, but I still stumbled like crazy over my words and even cried at the end. Hard. Yikes.
I like words, but never seem to express myself well when it comes to speaking. Which is why I have a blog! And as I’ve thought more about my mom and all of her amazingness, I decided to write a little something to share the most important thing she taught me about motherhood.
It’s pretty simple, actually: be a happy mama.
Moms today deal with a lot of pressure. We think we’re falling short because we’re not Pinteresty enough or aren’t interested in—I mean, don’t have time for—daily tea parties or Lego sessions with our kids. But is that what they really need?
I actually have no childhood memories of my mom setting up crafts for us. I don’t remember her organizing play dates or making us perfect little snacks. I don’t think she ever sat down and played dolls with me. But I have no complaints about my childhood.
Because here is what I do remember: my mom smiling at us. She was always folding something, washing something, or bouncing a baby on her hip. But she was quick to listen if I needed to talk. She spent a lot of time laughing with her close circle of friends. She had seven kids, so our house was usually full of noise, mess, and people, but I don’t ever remember her fussing at us over any of it. She said yes all the time. She didn’t entertain us, but always gave us the freedom to run wild outside. She never made us wash our hands and we rarely cleaned our rooms. We were hardly ever sick. We ate a lot of junk food. A LOT. All of our friends loved coming to our house where they could gorge themselves on Lucky Charms and Little Debbie cakes. And of course, they all loved talking to my mom.
My mom put my dad first. Back then it was a little annoying. They went on a lot of dates. I didn’t realize she hates to cook until after my dad died in 2009. He loved a big dinner and she made sure he had one every night. He basically worshipped her. She was a wife first and then a mother. I never had to worry my parents might split up.
I have no memories of my mom yelling at us or snapping at us. Ever. As a mom now myself, I am constantly convicted by that. I’ve even wracked my brain over it, trying to think of just one time when she lost her temper. But nope. Nothing. She was just not a stressed out mama.
I am different from my mom in a lot of ways. I start to hyperventilate if my kids eat anything with food dye in it. And they have to make their beds every morning. But over the past year I’ve thought a lot about my top priorities. A clean house is nice. Healthy food matters. But do I want my kids to remember the way I flipped out when they turned the living room into a massive, creative mess? The way I controlled everything they ate? How I walked around the house constantly irritated because the kids were being kids?
The truth is, I want my kids’ childhood to look like my own. I want them to remember getting dirty outside, inventing games and art projects, and baking with me in the kitchen. I want them to have a happy mama who listens to them and laughs with them and often tells them how much I love being with them, something my mom did for us on a regular basis.
When my dad died of cancer, I was suddenly aware in a new way that life is fragile. These people I love so much—my parents, my extended family, even my husband and kids—will not live forever. It’s too easy to roll through the days taking them all for granted. So even though I’m sure I sounded like a fool when I fell apart sobbing at my mom’s birthday brunch, I think it was good to at least try to find a few words of gratitude.
In the end, I don’t think the people I love care all that much about perfection anyway.