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|What Makes a GOOD Mother?
|What classifies a “good” mother? Think about it for a bit. Does a good mom stay home and take care of her children all day? Does a good mom show her children what a valuable human being she is by taking a full-time job and going out each day to earn a paycheck? Does a good mom pack lunches every day? Does a good mom tell her child to pack his own lunch? Does a good mom play outside in the sunshine with her child each day? Does a good mom stand in line for hours to register her child for the “best” preschool?
Since I have entered those dreaded teenage years, I have been noticing how incompetent my children are. I have been a “good mother”. I don’t deserve this. I’m not their slave. How could they be so blatantly disrespectful? Bill Cosby used to call it “brain damage” and make light of the loss of attentiveness that seems to coincide with the flow of hormones. Besides the fact that they are incapable of making any decision with an inkling of good judgment – all of those things that I have asked them kindly and patiently to do for years are still flowing from my lips. “Please don’t leave wet towels on the floor. Hang them up when you are finished.” “Please put the toilet seat down.” “Please flush the toilet.” “Please put your dirty clothes in the hamper.”
I used to chalk it up to immaturity or perhaps they did not hear me. There were even times throughout the years that I would yell, make them come to me at that moment and correct their faux pas. I would stand there directly over top of them while they picked up their towel and I would show them for the 27 millionth time, how to fold and drape it over the metal bar. But each day the children would rise and shower and my home would again be littered with the Canon casualties of that morning. I would begin my daily ritual of walking through the house, opening blinds, flushing toilets and picking up towels. It is strange how those mornings evolved into a decade.
I always assumed that one day they would be intelligent beings that were old enough to follow a 2-step command and would do as I asked them and the brain damage would begin to heal. I guess it was that same ignorant woman that believed that even though I was fixing chicken nuggets, mac n’ cheese and apple slices 6 nights a week for the picky eaters surrounding my kitchen table – one day they would miraculously grow into muscular, health conscious boys on the cusp of manhood ready to devour the latest chicken and broccoli casserole with a side spinach salad that I had so painstakingly prepared. I had convinced myself that this was a “stage” that my younger children were in and that with time it would improve. It is pitiful what we will talk ourselves into just to survive another day, isn’t it?
However, I have to admit, I would never imagined that I would have teenagers still incapable of hanging towels, flushing toilets or refusing to eat vegetables that aren’t on a cob. How did that happen? That wasn’t what I signed up for. I was just being a “good mother”. I am proud to say that I do refuse to cook chicken nuggets and slice apples at dinner time now. Most nights that I cook a grown up dinner (meaning that food ingredients are mixed together or touching somehow), you can be sure that someone isn’t hungry, someone is taking a nap, someone is trying to make weight for a wrestling match or someone had a really late lunch. I was beginning to accept that those awesome family dinners just weren’t meant to be. But I still have trouble grasping the idea that my teenage boys are incapable of hanging towels or flushing toilets. These seem like fairly primitive harmless expectations to me.
I have experimented. After all, I am a “good mother”. If there is a problem, I can correct it with discipline of some sort. I will refuse to flush their toilets and wait to see what will happen. Apparently, the teenagers in my home are also void of the sense of smell. They don’t recognize that pungent aroma of fresh morning urine that has been sitting from the first son, while the second son uses the same unflushed toilet and then is finally topped off by the third son making his contribution to the concoction. I have tried to ignore it. Really I have. By lunchtime the smell is wafting down the stairs to the foyer near my front door. Naturally, I would have had no unexpected visitors to my home in the past week. But the morning I decide to wage this battle you can bet that doorbell will ring with everyone from my friends to the Fed Ex delivery man. I have even managed to continue through this humiliating experience and still restrain myself from that flush. But it never fails, the dreaded sound of the golden retriever taking long lapping drinks from that toilet bowl will send a shiver through my spine and launch me into motion every time. The next thing I know I am angrily flushing that toilet while swearing I’ll never let them use one of my toilets as long as I live. In fact, maybe I should just have the toilets other than the one in my master bathroom removed from my home permanently. Yeah, these are rational thoughts that I can enforce. So I lecture my kids on a fairly regular basis about towels, toilets, dirty clothes and dirty dishes. But if I have been a “good mother”, why are these things still a problem?
Recently I read a friend’s Facebook status that started me thinking. She is younger than me and has several children all of which are much younger than mine. She had posted about her 9 and 7 year old that were doing some schoolwork together and she was not involved directly. Then she said something that struck a chord with me. She made a remark about how being a lazy mother sometimes could be good. Don’t you know that I have thought about that comment a hundred times since I read it?
I have always felt that taking care of my children was my job. Of course it is. This is not rocket science. I was a very busy, hands-on kind of mother. I like everything done a certain way so it seemed much easier to do things myself. With 4 children, time was of the essence and I could certainly set the table faster, empty the dishwasher much more easily and mix up some lemonade without ending up with a sticky floor. If they needed it washed, I washed it. If they wanted a sandwich, I made it. If they asked for cookies, I baked them. I did it all and I was happy to take care of them and anything they may need. A “good mother” takes care of her children, right?
For those of us who deem ourselves “good mothers”, think twice before you criticize a “lazy mother”. On what do you base your judgment? Perhaps that “lazy mother” is affording her children the opportunity to be responsible while the “good mother” has cheated her children out of the experience. If I could go back and do it all again – I would do it differently.
My motto has always been “More is More.” I’m an overachiever, definitely a Type A situation happening here. You know the type, matching clothes for all of the children, perfectly groomed, while my hair is coiffed and sprayed, standing with a tray of fancily iced cupcakes on a plate that I whipped up before we went to the 9:30 Sunday morning service. Perhaps I should have spent more time sending those children back into the bathroom to hang their towels, flush the toilets and put away their laundry while I slept in that extra hour and watched some television instead of making cupcakes and pressing their matching outfits. Perhaps “Less IS More.” Perhaps if I had done less for my children then, my children would do more now.
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