I have to confess: I am a mommy thief. Allow me to explain. There have been a few past posts that have casually mentioned in passing how I don’t/ didn’t have a mother of my own. That’s a long, ugly, and dark back history that we won’t delve into today. Instead, let me tell you about the moms I have gleaned expertise from.
It’s pretty common belief that children will inevitably parent like their own parents. But what about the children who grow up in a dysfunctional family? Are we doomed to repeat the cycle?
I may not have experienced it first hand, but I was witness to plenty of amazing mothers growing up. Many of the things I do with my children and philosophies I carry in regard to raising them are in thanks to these women.
Let’s use the homemade chocolates as an example. Every holiday and for special events, the kids and I make little chocolates. I’m particularly fond of the lollipop molds. People act like this is a new trend that I must have found on Pinterest or picked up from a crunchy mommy blog. In fact, it’s taken from one of my childhood friends. In elementary school, she would make these lollipop chocolates with her mother and bring them to school. Being BFFs meant I usually got extras. There was even a time or two that I got to join them in their chocolate making endeavors. This is probably something that this mom never thought would imprint on her child’s friend, but it did. I’ve been making chocolate lollipops with Marshall since he was one year old; I hope my children always treasure the extra time we spent together making these treats like I do.
Two of my aunts also inspired me to up my parenting game. I’m always asked about our little random parties that we throw. The random theme parties come from them. I stopped getting birthday parties with friends at a pretty young age; I was told that it was because I “had more birthdays than your sister!” ….did I mention that I’m the oldest child? I kind of should have at least three more birthdays than one and five more than the other but I digress. These aunts always put a little extra into their children’s-my cousins- birthdays. Long before Pinterest, they were coming up with cute and clever themes and executing adorable treats like cupcakes in ice cream cones. They would come up with their families in the summer and we would have random themed parties; it was always a highlight of summer. The love and care they put into making these memories for their children- and being kind enough to include my sisters and myself- meant a great deal to me. When people compliment the parties we throw, it’s really these aunts they are praising.
In high school, another friend’s mom also inspired me. In my very religious, conservative home things like free thinking and feminism were spat on. “Feminism” in particular was uttered with pure disdain. Yet this mom spoke freely about women being empowered. Her words made me feel strong and worthy. The idea that I was encouraged to think beyond what I was told to believe was a revolutionary concept to me at the time. Now as a mother, I find myself back in a small town setting, I make sure to speak up and find my voice. I try to empower my children, allow free thinking & discussion, and truly believe that all my children are being raised as feminists (yes, Marshall too can believe in equality). This strong mama is why I now raise my children with a sense of history and in turn who I credit with Marshall being praised as “worldly” by his teacher.
My mentor and teacher in high school. We are still in contact today and she is unconditional love embodied. Soft spoken, patient, and kind. She was the opposite of what I knew and I loved her dearly for it. I was almost an adult but I remember envying her children as I watched her with them. She cried when she hugged me goodbye before I left for college. No one else did, but she truly cared for me on a level I didn’t yet know. She played a Carrie Underwood song for me that reminded her of me. Her love of sentiment and symbolism made everything so much more special. I love her still for that. And so that is why I openly show such deep and strong emotion to my children. I smother them in love and sentiment and I hope it makes them feel as special as my teacher made me feel.
An aunt- who is no longer technically my aunt- is a warrior. She has shown me just how strong a mom can be. She weathered her own miscarriages. She raised children, while working full time, and going to school full time. She climbed her career ladder to the top. She didn’t do it for herself; she did it for her kids. So she could give them a strong start in life. So she could make sure they could get every chance to succeed. At one point, she took me in as one of her own. She loved me, poured time into me, and never asked for anything in return. Even since divorcing my uncle, she has shown me love and never wanted or needed anything in return. My first baby carrier (REI Piggyback) is from her. Her mix of modern science- she is a nurse after all- and granola living is something I mimic. Her love of children- even those who are not her own- is something I hope to emulate. Always promising myself that someday I will repay the favor and open our home to a child who needs a family and stability as well.
Obviously, this post would be remiss if I didn’t bring up my grandmother. Vi is named in honor of her; her impact is lasting on our family. My grandma had a gift. She had sixteen children, fifty-five grandchildren, and over eighty great-grandchildren (and growing). But she made each of us feel so special. She made time for all of us and just had this way about her. When I was with her, I never felt like one of fifty-five, I was the one getting her undivided attention. She showed me how to cook with taste and love instead of with a recipe. Grandma was also an incredibly strong woman. She wasn’t even five feet tall yet she demanded respect. Grown men who yell over one another would be silenced by her. She didn’t allow bullying or hurt in her presence. I hope I can be half the mother and leave a portion of the legacy that she did. I have to say, her feisty spirit does live on in my pint-sized wild flower. Vi is truly her kindred spirit.
There are others, with various Aunts (C & K in particular) playing a part in showing unconditional love; modeling forgiveness and kindness. Yes, so many women have given me the pieces I needed to help with the puzzle of parenthood. I hope that they realize that; that they understand there were little eyes watching them that weren’t their own children. They made me the mother I want to be and helped break a cycle. I hope that maybe someday a child who truly needs it will see the glimmer of hope in me that I saw in these women. That more people see that they do not have to make their children carry the burden of their own childhood.