As I've written before, I never appreciated how good my mother was to me until I grew up and met a bunch of really bad ones. When I was growing up, my assessment of her nurturing skills was limited to comparisons with the seeming perfection of other girls' lives: what fashionable items other girls possessed, what other girls were free to do, or more importantly, what other girls were free to not do. Like study, save their own money, or spend hours rewriting their English papers to a former professor's satisfaction. It didn't occur to me until recently to judge the quality of my childhood not by how cushy and carefree my life was at 16, but by how cushy my life is now after leaving the nest. Those hours spent on English papers don't seem so bad when I can now pump out A-level reports for my masters program with half the effort of my classmates.
The enormous responsibility of being a mother is something a lot of people can't, or shouldn't, take on. I know quite a few who are barely capable of acting like fully-functioning adults, much less parents. For example, I would make a really terrible mother. I don't have the patience, especially if my kid were to to have a personality anything like mine. Rather than a bundle of joy, the stork dropped off a bundle of strong will on that doorstep in San Diego 23 years ago. Here are some things my mother did to turn that bundle into a mostly decent human being:
1. Exposed me to the right influences and kept me away from the bad ones
While my classmates were idolizing supermodels, my mother was pushing me to read books featuring capable women. Instead of letting me mimic the Spice Girls, she put a flute in my hand and made me develop real musical skills. I may not play the flute anymore, but I'm also not running around acting like I'm Posh Spice.
2. Took me places
Every weekend she would drive for hours to get me to orchestral rehearsals, museums, hiking trails, or theater shows. At the time I thought that this was completely normal, and sometimes even resented these outings. I didn't know how lucky I was until I met mothers who weren't willing to drive 40 minutes to an event their kids would have treasured for a lifetime, because their TV shows were more important.
3. Took me to BIGGER places
When my youth orchestra went to Europe in the summer of 2004, my mother hopped on the plane with me and made the trip 100% more interesting (left to my own devices, I would have hung around the touristy shopping centers with the other flutists for two weeks). She drove me and my brothers 16 hours to the Grand Canyon. She flew me to Oregon and the east coast. Not only can I put those push-pins on the Google Map of my travels, but I have memories aplenty. And I'm pretty sure memories of the mountains and waterfalls in Meiringen, Switzerland will stick with me longer than memories of designer jeans would have.
4. Let me screw up
When one of our cats was hit by a car, my mother said it was better that she ran around and enjoyed life before going than if she was confined to the house, perfectly safe and bored for 20 years. She liked this approach to her parenting style, which, if a bit morbid, is not a bad philosophy. Of course I'd rather not be hit by a car, but I did have the freedom to rebel, explore, bring myself to the brink of destruction and find my way back again. Much less dramatically, I could ride my bike all over the place without being traced like a criminal. And dally in different life paths until I found the right one. And move in with a boy I'd known for two months. Result: stability and happiness. I'm certain I'm a much better person than I would have been if I sat like a china doll in a plastic castle being coddled and suppressed for 18 years.
Four items is not the traditional length of lists like these, but I think a lot is wrapped up in them. Bottom line: my mother did well. Happy Mother's Day.