From the time I was a little girl I wanted to be a mother. I dreamed of being a mother. Even though I had other dreams, this dream was at the top of the list. As I grew older I knew I really wanted a daughter. Because my childhood was filled with the responsibilities of cleaning, cooking and taking care of my brothers there was not much time for just playing and enjoying the carefree time of being a child. I felt by having a daughter I could mother differently and watch my daughter enjoy normal childhood activities and I wanted to give her an environment where she could feel safe and secure. When I was 24 my dream came true and Angela Marie was born.
I took my job of raising this little bundle very seriously. I felt from the beginning she did not belong to me, but was merely on loan. It was my responsibility to not only keep her safe, but to raise her to adulthood. My job was to teach her not to need me and to stand on her own two feet. I am happy to report I succeeded and she takes care of herself and thrives as an adult. That does not mean she does not have struggles, she does, but she handles them and stands tall each and every day. Raising her was not easy we certainly had our moments of struggle and adversity with each other. But at the end of the day we found common ground. We love and respect each other as women. By watching her grow I also healed my scars from childhood. By watching her go off to dances and enjoy childhood activities I was able to heal the scars within.
Although my mother suffered from mental illness, she did teach me how to stand on my own by making me responsible for my brothers, the house and even, at times, her. I worked a full-time job from the time I was 16 to help support the family as well as go to high school. She was the mother God saw I had to teach me the lessons I needed to learn. My mother was not good at nurturing or making me feel safe and secure, but she taught me valuable lessons. She helped me to become a strong adult. So in some ways she did her job.
There are two mothers I know of teen boys. One has a 15 year old boy with downs syndrome and the other has a 17 year old boy, very bright, straight A student. The mother of the downs syndrome boy wants nothing more for her son to have as much independence as he can acquire. Every accomplishment is celebrated. She knows he will most likely be dependent on her for the rest of her life and I know that worries her. She constantly teaches her son how to do things on his own. However, there are challenges he faces every day. The other mother refuses to teach her son cooking, cleaning, how to manage money. Even driving was something she did not want him to do. She wants him to stay little and dependent on her so he won’t go off to college and leave her. The first mother would give anything for her son to gain his independence and the other stifles it at every turn for fear of abandonment. If her son pushes back about her need to hang on, she accuses him of being disrespectful. In the end he will gain his independence and he will leave. I see this boy regularly and I have taught him the life lessons he will need going forward into adulthood.
What makes a good mother is one that teaches her children how to be adults and go off into the world. At the same time she is there to nurture them and keep them safe while they learn these lessons. Our children are given to us for a short period of their lives. It is our job to teach them how to find their own voices and live their own journey, while we live ours.