Mom dilemma #3721: Your child does not turn in a major project. What do you do? Do you email the teacher for an extension? Do you reprimand your child verbally? Do you take away their privileges? Do you blame yourself for your poor time management and cluttered environment? All of the above? Sometimes I feel like I have this parenting thing down. Other days I realize I don’t have any idea what I’m doing and I’m operating from intuition and hope.
I used to think that it was Mondays, specifically Monday mornings, where I had my major parent fails. Nope, puede ser any day. During the work week, I deal with parents who ask me for advice about their adolescents. I’ve worked in high schools or 22 years. I have been a mother for 10(I include pregnancy). I have more experience and more damn sense being a high school administrator and teacher than I do being a mom.
I wonder how much damage I have done. Will she fail academically? Will she end up depressed or anxious? Will she abuse drugs or sex? Will she hate me someday? Does she hate me now? I make the mistakes I advise parents to avoid. I say things which hurt my daughter’s feelings. These mom fails make us all feel terrible.
Parenting never gets any easier. But the love for my child gets deeper and more complicated. My little person is growing up into an individual with a mind of her own, a will I don’t want to break and a heart I don’t want to disappoint. I pray to be a better parent daily. I wish to be a good mom. I wish M could understand all the different things that go through my mind, all the fears and doubts. I wish it were simple but it never was and won’t be. I can only hope that the love I feel always guides me.
I had an important presentation at work this week. Of course, I had to stay late past my regular working hours; that is how the educational world rolls(two years ago, I did a major presentation after 11:30pm. Te imaginas?) I had prepared my PowerPoint slides. I had practiced aloud. I had printed out notes. I brainstormed potential questions. Since I had planned to stay at the office, I worked on other pending items.
Though she doesn’t yet have her own phone, M sometimes borrows her nana’s or grandma’s phone and sends me texts via WhatsApp. I look forward to these exchanges. They brighten my day. After all she is the reason I work as hard as I do. As part of getting ready for my late work night, I had to make sure she had rides to and from dance class. I also reminded her to feed her dog and practice her piano. Imagine my dismay when she asked me if her dance shoes were at Grandma’s house. I had left my office and driven to a nearby shopping center to pick up some dinner for myself. I turned around , looked in my backseat and saw her dance bag. I jumped out of the car to grab the bag. All the shoes that she needed were there. While I was annoyed, I didn’t hesitate to come up with a solution. I told her I would drive home to bring her shoes, possibly drive her to the dance studio and then drive back to my presentation. Because I’m her mom and that’s how I do.
I’m hard on myself on the way I parent. I believe all parents are. I have written in the past about how I question where and when I spend my time. I have reflected on the decisions I have made as a mom. I have questioned how my career and my passions affect my ability to be a truly engaged and compassionate parent. When M needs me, I will be there. An extra commute Is nothing. The thought of my daughter missing out on what she loves to do was something I didn’t want. I can sacrifice the time. I’m usually rewarded with a big hug, smiles, and sweet words of gratitude. I love all that but I didn’t need it. What I needed to know was that I had provided for my child. I have done it before and I will do it again. I may make a sarcastic remark and maybe give some side eye. No matter what, I will always come through for M.
I did make it to my presentation on time. M made it to her class on time with the right shoes. That’s not the Midas touch; that’s the Mama’s touch.
One night this past fall, I was up for two hours between 2 and 4am. M had told me she had misplaced her Moana TsumTsum. She did not yet tell me it had been gone for weeks. M, like both of her parents, is a notorious pack rat so she struggles with clutter. I stayed up looking through things, recycling paper, throwing trash out, and adding to our donation bag. I hoped to find it.
I know I could have used that time in a different way. I could have worked; there are always emails to answer, agendas to craft, a newsletter to compose and translate into Spanish. I could have worked creatively by posting to my blog. I could have practiced one of my dance routines as there are now occasional gigs with my dance group. While I may know a routine, I can always work on technique and precision. That comes from lots of practice. Given my time management struggles, this does not consistently happen.
While I could have used those two hours differently, I sat and knelt in the dark, going through different drawers and boxes to find the missing toy. In the morning, M said I shouldn’t have wasted my time. When I saw how crestfallen she looked at the thought of not seeing this toy again, I knew she would be happy if it was found. She then told me it had been missing for a long time. She decided to ask Santa for a new one. During another round of cleaning a month or so later, we found a bag of toys we had stored during the summer. Moana was there. We had several good laughs about that late night of cleaning.
I do a lot for M because I would like her to feel good or better. When M was tiny, we spent hours up at night. We would play. I would chat with her. She didn’t sleep through the night until she was two years old. (Sleepless in San Leandro)I didn’t know what it was like to get several hours of sleep for a few years. Despite the challenges, it was time well spent. As a mom, I often question my commitment to dance, writing, and my career because of the time they take from M. Making a difference as an educator and as a writer are important to me. She is the person I want to make the most difference for in this life. M is my reason.
I had several moments in the last week when I broke my Lenten promise and lost my patience with M. Despite these challenges, M and I have a great relationship. I have fostered close communication. We are similar in sense of humor and in the way we articulate ourselves. People point out she’s your mini-me; she tries on my vocabulary and certain phrases and idioms. We can have relatively deep conversations about different subjects because she’s an observant critical thinker. I appreciate her how she perceives the world. She jokes, “I’m much pettier than you are.” I replied, “No I’ve been petty for forty-four years.” She said, “I’ve been petty for millions of years.” She says that in fun because she has a better understanding of situations than many kids. I am confident that M will continue to evolve into a good woman because I deeply love her. She doesn’t always feel that. She sometimes says, “I don’t feel like you love me right now.” I am committed to mending our relationship and reassuring her that I will always provide support as her mom.
With the coming of spring, new life arrives. My best friend had her second child last week and one of my dance sisters had her firstborn child that week. I’m excited for my friends who are new moms. It’s not easy to be a mom but it is motivating to know you have a person in your life who wants what’s best for you, of you, and from you. The mother-child relationship is like no other.
I know of a fellow writer who publicly declared that her romantic love exceeded her mother love. I am still judging her for it. For the longest time, I was fixated on romantic love. My early blogs were focused on the search for romantic love and its challenges. Mother love is pure, infinite, and endures through many tests and trials. The way society has conceptualized and portrayed romantic love and the way we experience romantic love doesn’t measure up. Mother love is my greatest love.
M enriches my life in ways nobody else ever has. Of all the people in my life, my daughter has truly made me evolve into the best version of myself. I may have my bad moments. Motherhood motivates me and makes my world more beautiful every single day.