By Sherri L Dodd
Shortly after having my first baby, I decided I was going to be the perfect parent. I immediately began to keep an intelligent library of child-rearing books on my nightstand and would replenish the stock as each book was absorbed into my sub-consciousness and checked off the "read" list. My fixation on perfection was evident. The bookstore clerks began to call me by name. My bank statement regularly presented the preference for my local Borders Bookstore and my husband was consistently reminded of my expertise on the subject from my readily available corrections and helpful tips. When the matriarchs of my family tree would enlighten me with the sage advice of "I made my mistakes and you will make yours", I would nod in agreement simply to humor them and pay respect for the admittance of their parental blunders. But, I reassured myself that there was no way I would let "mistakes" creep into my role as mother. My children would be raised seamlessly, with nary a flaw, and would grow up to raise their children perfectly because of my initiatives toward diligent parenting. I was on a glorious roll until my firstborn learned to draw.
Revelation #1 came when my son was in his darling fourth year. This is the year where children begin to draw stick figures, flowers, and houses with smoked coming out of the chimney. My firstborn was no different. I was so pleased when I came across a sketch that my son had drawn of the pleasant panoramic rendition of our front yard. It had such pleasing detail, including a whispy, three-tiered, warm smiling sun and two overly tall flowers, surely symbolizing my sweet one's love for the beauty in his life. The house had a slightly rounded roof which I was sure represented the gentle parenting he received; the lack of sharp edges, a sign of the warmth emulated within my son's nurturing home environment. Frilly curtains aligned the cheery open windows. And then"I noticed the stick figure. It seemed that my dear boy must have made a mistake on it, since it was slightly scribbled. Nevertheless, I searched throughout the house to find the young lad to elaborate on how wonderful a picture he had drawn. I found him, lavishly praised his creativity and then inquired about the stick figure. "It's you, Mom." I then asked if he had made a mistake on it due to the excessive lines. With head down, he grinned and announced that it wasn't scribbled "It's you on fire, Mom". Shock! Disbelief! I asked him "why" and he just giggled. I decided not to make a big deal out of it and instead told him it was a great picture anyway, but, oh dear, the tumultuous thoughts that began racing through my bewildered head would not quiet! I acted on the notion of tormented child syndrome immediately and phoned a few family members, who also thought it rather humorous and dismissed any negative connotations. Thankfully, I also spoke with a friend (who happens to be a psychologist) and he informed me that it was not that my son had pyromaniac tendencies, nor did he wish me in harm's way, it was simply a common way for a child to express himself when mad at a parent. Earlier in the day, my son was forbidden a third cookie at Grammy's house and mom's nastiness at the sweet omission warranted a good ring of fire about my humble likeness as a stick figure.
The evidence of childhood displeasure is bad enough when relinquished in the confinements of your own home. It is when the disclosure is made to the public that leaves a mom a bit sheepish. And, might I add, it is an experience that every self-congratulatory mom should experience. Revelation #2 came earlier this autumn month while in 1st grade. The students were instructed to decorate a pre-drawn vehicle which represented their transportation home after school. The choices were school bus or car. My son, being the mom-taxi"d lad that he is, chose the car. I stumbled upon this visual when I had come to school to assist the students in making apple pies. There I was behind the wheel, a side profile of mom with long chunky red hair, a big, bold blue eyeball and a big, blood-red"for everyone to see"frowny face. Lovely! I guess for popularity's sake among the class (teacher included) I should try to refrain from excessive morning scoldings toward my son's tail-dragging tendencies.
Luckily I have grounded myself to realize that my mother and grandmother are right. I will make mistakes and even if I do not, my children are going to find times to under appreciate my mothering skills. The more I live this crazy life of a mom, I realize that books are great to fall back on but they are not a valid substitution for the actual experiences of being a mother. We are three-dimensional beings with emotions; we are not a one dimensional black and white paperback devoid of erroneous zones. In fact, there are times when you may want to launch the clever-beyond-years, all-knowing text book through your front room window. And even when you do follow all the educated and researched wisdom, you will find that for every book you read there is another one with conflicting advice from PhD's and MD's that will still keep you guessing at your adequacy of a parent. In the meantime, until your kids have children of their own, they are not going to forgive you when you leave them with a new babysitter for the first time nor will they excuse your uncoolness of not letting them leave the house without shoes, play near edges where they may fall or hook up with society's possible law-breaking citizen of the future. As well, you will make mistakes. There will be times when you think your child is exaggerating to get out of dishes"right before he projectiles dinner across your kitchen floor. Your motherly attention scale will surely go off balance toward one sibling leaving the other miffed and brooding. And yes, in this day of "spare the rod mentality, you may very well retract your arm and release a swift whack on a well-padded diapered butt. But, in the end, if your goal and desire is to love and nurture your children the best you can, surely you will not deviate too far off the path of good and crash into failure.
Being a mother can be construed as one of those thankless jobs in life. But, luckily it is also a role of delayed gratification. For all the time and energy you are putting into raising your child into the near perfect specimen of a human, you, nor they, will fully know the result of your diligence until they become adults. You will receive a few more long-awaited thank you's from your kids as they start fine-tuning their own parenting skills. You will be able to see and feel great about your obvious contributions toward their success and forgive yourself for your perceived errors that contribute toward their flaws. It is then that you can sit back and think to yourself, Wow! My child has become a great person because of me"and in spite of me!
About The Author
Sherri L Dodd is the creator and author of Mom Looks Great - The Fitness Program for Moms. She is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, Lifestyle & Weight Management Consultant and Kickboxing Instructor with over fifteen years of exercise experience. She has lectured to groups on her fitness plan and is a freelance writer on the topics of fitness and general nutrition as well as the humorous side of motherhood.