Sunday, May 12, 2013

What exactly is the success metric for a Mom?

I come from great Maternal stock, true story. I just wish I could have understood this when I was still a kid - before proverbially tearing a piece of my Mom's heart out and eating it as a teenager.  

My Mum grew up in an era of feminism that was filled with conflicted ideals of what being a woman could or should be.  The idea that women should have a right to choose their own paths was  the message but the undertone, like a current,  that could carry women away was there was still a 'right' choice to make.
Graduate of the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing

I remember Mom saying to me that she was so relieved my older brother was a boy because she still hadn't figured out what kind of woman she wanted to be at that point - never mind what kind of woman she wanted to model for her daughters. At the time I was mortified at her institutionalized patriarchal view of womanhood...ah youth so simple.

I revisit that statement again and again wondering if there is ever a single concrete model that I want to commit to, so thankful that she lives such a broad life.
The night my brother was likely conceived - GROSS ME OUT MOM!
As I start to walk the path tread by herself, and so many Mothers before her I start to think that it is limitless - the capacity to stay up all night, to parent in ways so children know from early on that their voices can be heard, to keep little people alive even though they have suddenly become food racists (really, that toast is too dark?  REALLY??)
 She patiently listens to me talk out possible solutions to M's temper tantrums and supports me as I try on different parenting techniques - I can barely hear the sound of her eyes roll as I wonder out loud, "How can I foster M's strong will and voice without selling her on the black market?"

At some point in the past 15 years, I started thinking her capacity to continue speaking with her over-confident, know-it-all children was destructively limitless. Maybe she asked herself during those long tedious conversations, "How can I foster strong will and voice without selling her on the black market or throwing myself off a bridge?"

On top of survival, trying to pour the concrete foundation of a healthy definition of food, natural curiosity, empathy and adventure. It all seems a bit much doesn't it?
It all comes so clear now...

 I found this picture of our old family tent that housed all SIX OF US on more than one camping trip.  According to the back of the picture, we were camping at Woss Lake in 1980.  Here's what the website says about Woss Lake: 

"This rugged, undeveloped wilderness park is located on northern Vancouver Island, south of the community of Woss and north of Zeballos.

One of the most pristine wilderness parks on the Island, the landscape includes the southern portion of Woss Lake, as well as very steep forested slopes above the lake and the permanent snowfields and north facing slopes of Rugged Mountain, part of the Haihte Range."
That tent doesn't look so big now does it?
This means that my Mother was camping with 3 children and 1 new born baby sometime in the first 6 months of that baby's life in a place that had PERMANENT SNOWFIELDS.  Like a flash of lightening, it all becomes so clear.

I bet Jason wishes he'd known about my foundation before getting locked down.
Jason's thinking "Really, not Disney World?  REALLY?"
I suspect now that being the wife of a nomadic metallurgist in Canada and Mother to four of his children, might have made it hard to set down all the roots and build the community that keeps Mothers safe, but somehow in all 6 isolated towns we lived in I remember kitchens full of people. Morning coffee dates at our kitchen table, Christmas gift wrapping parties and camping trips.

Even during an election year she found the time for 'discussions' about acceptable public behaviour, birth control and safe party conduct, damn it.

When these are the building blocks I have to use for my own parenting career, it's hard to believe that failure is a possibility. That we could do the best job with the best materials given to me by great Mothers and still the little beasts could grow to be sociopathic monsters.

I can't help but think she must be so relieved that no matter what happens from here on in, she got four right thinking, mostly balanced adults on the road.

Jeez, the expectations on this job of impossible.


Debbi said...

I love this. Nicely done!

robin said...

Love it! Happy mother's day Barb & Jen

JenHendriks said...

She's pretty amazing. Super challenging and critically thinking, I'm sure she's regretted fostering those exact traits in us as we grew up.

JenHendriks said...

Thanks Debbi!

JenHendriks said...

Thanks Robin!