Mama R is posting again today. I don’t know how much I’ve spoken about it on here but I truly believe in the sisterhood. In womanhood. The importance of matriarchy, of generational knowledge, of ritual and ceremony and in embracing our elders and all that they bless us with. Today I leave you with a beautiful post about not only women and mothers but also about parenting.
How many of us have had that moment when it dawns us: “I sound like my mother!” Last night, around 11 o’clock, I walk out into the lounge room and say to Daddy R, “It’s getting late, you might want to think about going to bed soon.” His reply was “yes Mum!” It dawned on me, he was exactly right!
“I’ll never be like my mother!” I remember hearing this from people at times; sometimes in adolescence when mums were grounding their feisty teenagers (aka some of my friends!), in university when my friends and I were becoming young adults and adamantly deciding to do things our own way or more recently as people around me started their own families. But I have to say, this is not a phrase that has come out of my mouth. Whilst not particularly happy to hear Daddy R tell me I sound like my mother, my Mum is someone I aspire to be like not someone from whom I am desperately trying to create a different path.
I think that many aspects of our parenting come instinctively, but this is heavily influenced by the way our own parents raised us. So it makes me think, I can list hundreds of wonderful characteristics about my Mum but what were the practical things she did that made her a good Mum? Things that spring immediately to mind include; making time to play with us, consistent boundary setting so we knew where we stood all the time even if we didn’t like it, she rarely raised her voice but was able to get our attention and obedience, positive comments and instructions, routine, instilling in us the importance of family time through actions not words, allowing us to make a mess in our creative play (ensuring we also packed it up!), leaving occasional gifts on our beds after school, lots of cuddles and kisses, reading to us before bed, teaching us to speak in a nice way to people and with manners, saying prayers together before we fell asleep, encouraging us to talk things through with her and choosing the times to give advice and the times to listen. Some of these things I think I do unconsciously and others ones I try more consciously to achieve.
Now don’t get me wrong, growing up I didn’t always think I had it great! But it’s funny, many of things I didn’t like that Mum did (eg: no TVs in bedrooms, limited TV time, homework before dancing, hair tied up at school, meeting parents of kids’ parties/sleep overs etc) are rules I would put in place for my own girls, now that I have them! My brothers and I sometimes tease my Mum about some of her “mistakes” (our view) or “quirks.” The same ones always come up; socks with sandals, not letting us watch the Simpson’s until the youngest brother hit high school (at which time I was at university!) and having shiny shoes (so that we could see our faces in them!) Mum acts all hurt and says “I was a terrible mother!” and we laugh. The fact that we can list these things on one hand and that they are insignificant in the scheme of things tells her we think she did a good job.
Recently, I had a brief period in an afternoon in which I was not particularly proud of my parenting. I was frustrated, snatched a toy, yelled, and the three girls and I all ended in tears. I felt terrible. It doesn’t happen often but it has a lasting impact on me and I do my best to be “a better mum.” Replaying the events to my Mum, she groaned, laughed and sympathised. She told me about one of her own experiences. She also told me I was too hard on myself and that I was a great Mum. The weight lifted from my tired shoulders and I felt better. I hold my Mum up in such high regard; she has set the bench mark high and continues to do so both as my mother and my girls’ grandmother.
I am lucky. My Mum is my role model. As a parent she was and still is fair, kind, fun, trust worthy, caring, firm, honest and affectionate, and I have never doubted her unconditional love for me or my brothers. As new mothers, we have so much information available to us in books, social media, mother’s groups, child & maternal health nurses, friends, doctors and the internet. But what about our most valuable resource; our own mum’s? Whether it is modelling ourselves on them or learning from their mistakes (our perception), they are arguably the most valuable source of knowledge. They have been through the ups and downs of motherhood and come out the other side; perhaps with a few extra grey hairs but survived nonetheless. I have often heard people say that we develop a new respect for our parents once we become parents ourselves. I believe this is true. I have always respected my parents and the job they have done but now the magnitude of what they have done for my brothers and I appears much greater.
Can you remember the first time, as a parent, you heard your mother’s words coming out of your own mouth? What was your response? What aspects of your mother or father’s parenting style do you try to model? What do you steer clear of? How has your perception of them changed once you became a parent yourself?