Mom pants are all alike.

One of the first things I realized after my daughter learned to talk, was that truth is Truth. The second thing I learned was that to a two year old, Truth and Manners are not well acquainted. A two year old sees you as you are. They are the human equivalent of those horrible magnifying mirrors that are placed strategically all over department store makeup counters and are designed to show you just how much you need a $52 bottle of foundation. (Which I do.) When a two year old informs you that "your breath smells like dirt and worms", or that "those pants cut your tummy in half" or that "you have a fuzzy chin like daddy's", too bad for you - because like it or not, you have just met Truth and it is letting you know who you are. ( Lesson two was followed closely by the instigation of the "that's something you say in mommy's ear" rule. Although... if you have multi-colored hair, a pierced cheek and a tatoo of Marvin the Martian on your neck, maybe someone should tell you that "you made your face ugly." ) I guess children assume that if you've caught even a small glimpse of yourself in a mirror lately that you see what they see and therefore, it should be no surprise when they point it out to you. However, it became very clear to me while watching Sesame Street this week with my three year old, that what he sees is very different than what I see.

So... I'm sitting on my couch watching Cookie Monster doing his "letter of the day" schtik , and out comes this other character to help him. This puppet was obviously a female and obviously related to Cookie Monster. She was, essentially, a hairy,blue, Barbara Bush. Blue curly hair, (like my Grandma has worn for the last 30 years), pearls all over the place (like my other Grandma has worn for the past 30 years), and a lovely floral print, um... muumuu (which even my grandmothers would consider just plain wrong). Naturally, I thought "How cute, his Grandma. I think it's great that Sesame Street supports extended family relationships for kids". Simultaneously my son yells out "Oh, Him's Momma. Him loves her." (We're working on the pronouns). He was right. It was not Cookie Monster's totally old grandmother, it was his totally old mom. If I could write out that noise that Scooby Doo makes when confronted with a confusing/surprising plot twist it would be an accurate representation of what went through my mind... and came out of my mouth. Seriously. I am the only mom my kid has ever known. I am his maternal frame of reference. I am the literal definition of the word mother for him. I am... Cookie Monster's mom.

After several days of denying my family resemblance to Mrs. Monster, (I'm assuming she's married - maybe not. They can be pretty progressive on the Sesame Street.), I've come to a sort of "Susan Boyle" kind of answer as to why my son thinks that I am the same as a frumpy blue muppet. It's just never going to be about looks.  I can do stuff to my hair and put on makeup and shape my eyebrows and wear good jeans, but I've decided that to a child, it doesn't matter, because mothers don't really look like anything. That isn't what she is. To a child, their mother is how she makes them feel. If you make your child feel beautiful and loved and smart and safe, then that is what a mother is. If you make them feel ugly, and scared and lonely and ignored, then that is what a mother is too. If you make your kid a birthday cake that splits in half because you frosted it while it was still warm (who knew there was an actual reason that the box says "let cool completely"), but you love them and they feel special because of that ugly cake, you just might find yourself reading in their classroom anthology that their favorite thing about you is that you make really good birthday cakes. (If you're lucky this will be accompanied by a picture of you holding a beautiful, tall, and elaborately decorated cake still in one piece - and then you will laugh loud... and cry a little). To you, the mom, your efforts might look like a disaster, but to a child, the effort is all that mattered in the first place.

So here it is. The things that as mothers we think make us good moms - it's all a big fat lie. It isn't if you feed your kids the right organic food, or put them in the right college resume building activities, or buy them the right techno gear, or make the right homemade Halloween costume. It is, in my opinion, that you give them the right feeling - about who they are and, (even on those days when they're sucking the life out of you), about how you could never love anyone quite like you love them. Kids that feel love from their moms know love when they feel it from someone else. They know love when they see it someplace else. They know a mother when they meet her.

I hope that my children will always know the truth about me. I hope they will know that I was not a perfect mother, but that I was a persistent mother. I hope they will know that I was not a serious mother, but I was serious about being a mother. I hope they will know that I often had no idea where we were going next, but that I could always be found in their corner. Mostly, I hope they know that I love them... and also that I will never, ever wear a blue, curly perm and pearls - ever.

ps- Happy Mother's Day to my mom who always loved me - which due to my easy going and compliant nature has always been super easy to do. I love you Diane.
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The Laundry Queen said...

Awesome post! Thanks for reminding me what being a mother is *really* all about.

Amy Jo said...

I love this post! I hope when I have children that those are the things they know about me too. Awesome!

grammy said...

And all this time, I thought that I was the perfect mom. No, not really. I am still waiting for the instruction manual.....


Happy Holmes said...

I laughed, I cried, and then I laughed again when I read the tribtue to "Diane"!

PS.. can she be my mom too. Mine sucks

Genet said...

That was one of the best posts on mothers I have ever read. Usually those Mother's Day emails make me cry, and then make me want to gag because I cried, etc. But I loved everything you said. Totally true.

Chelly said...

Okay so I did a late night random archive click and ended up on this one~ and let me tell you, woman~ you have a Way with Words. I absolutely love this entry and I want to share it~ may I? I love what you said about how being a good mom is about giving our children the right feeling about who they are and how we feel about them~ that is something I want to print up beautifully and put in a frame and hang on my wall where I can see it every day. I really needed this post~ I think I may do random archive clicks more often now ;o) Thanks for sharing your spirit, Ms. E <3