|Yep, that's my friend....|
Dyanne is my real, live, flesh-and-blood friend. She and I have been friends for, oh, I don't know, ten or twelve years. We met when our daughters attended pre-school together in the 2 year-olds class at the pre-school where Dyanne works. Katie and "purple Emma" (as my daughter is still sometimes wont to call her) were fast friends, and so were Dyanne and I. Dyanne is one of those quick-witted women who speaks her mind (with swear words! I love swear words!) both in person and in her blog. You may remember Dyanne from my post a while back about "Boobies and Squirrel Margaritas" (as a side note, I actually get a few hits from the search term "squirrel margaritas". Really? People are looking for something like that? I made that crap up, people! There is no such thing as a squirrel margarita, not even in the Ozarks! But, I digress). Anyway, on her blog, "Backsies Is What There Is Not", Dyanne describes her battle against breast cancer with generous amounts of both honesty and humor - just like she tells every story in her life. I am so, so pleased to share with you her story about motherhood today. I hope you come to love and appreciate this woman as much as I do.
I grew up with a traditional stay-at-home mother. She was there when I left for school in the morning, she was there when I got home in the afternoon (usually standing at the ironing board, watching her soap operas). She was on PTA, was a room mother, a den mother, a hospital volunteer. She played endless games of Yahtzee and Aggravation and Memory with me, along with all kinds of card games. She even made my bed for me every day after I went to school, as long as my room was reasonably neat.It would stand to reason, then, that I would share her mothering style, but that didn’t happen. I blame it, at least in part, on being an older mom (I was 34 when my son was born, 38 with my daughter). It gave me a long time to get set in my ways. A LONG time.When my children were babies, I was pretty traditional. Neither child ever had a drop of formula – they were breastfed until they were a year old. And that wasn’t without sacrifice. My son was a barracuda. I had to bring in a lactation consultant because he was spitting up blood (mine) and it felt as though my nipples were being sliced with a razor blade every time he nursed. I went back to work when he was four months old, toting a breast pump and cooler every day so I could pump while I was at work. When my daughter was born, it was discovered that I had developed perinatal cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart and accompanying heart murmur). The doctors said I would have to be on heart medication and blood pressure medication immediately and would not be able to breastfeed. I cried so that the ob/gyn on call spent hours researching alternative medications for me to take that would allow me to continue to nurse. The trade-off to that was I had to take the blood pressure medicine every six hours, around the clock, which I did for a full year, setting an alarm for 3 a.m. every night. And the real kicker was that my daughter slept through the night from about five weeks, but I still had to get up to take my medicine. My kids were both on schedules as infants and toddlers, although I allowed their little systems to set the schedules, then we stuck with them. We had regular feeding times, nap times, bed times.As my kids grew from babies and toddlers into preschoolers, my mothering style began to evolve. If my son was goofing around and fell off something and, say, whacked a knot onto his head, while I hugged him and rubbed it (or stopped the blood flow), I would offer sympathetic words like, “That wasn’t very smart of you, was it?”Nothing bored me more than a game of Candyland. And I felt guilty that I was being a “bad mom” when I would come up with excuse after excuse for not being able to play it (or Pretty, Pretty Princess or Dinosaur Monopoly or….) with one of my kids. I didn’t play dolls with my daughter or Hot Wheels with my son. I didn’t sign on to motherhood to be their sole source of entertainment (although I would read to them for hours).As the kids have grown into teenagers, I fear my mothering style would give June Cleaver a stroke. If my kids ask me my opinion, I give it. And it’s not always pretty. As a preschool teacher, I see so many children who have to have their every move praised and validated, and I just don’t want my kids to grow up this way. If my daughter asks me if her hair looks okay, I’ll tell her if it does, but if it’s unflattering or has a dreaded “bump” in it, I tell her. NICELY (usually, unless she’s all attitude-y, then I might not be so kind). I’m not going to tell my son that his History Day paper is fantastic when it isn’t. I didn’t tell him the paper sucked, but I did say it wasn’t his best work. Now, don’t go thinking I never praise them. I do. But I’m also not going to lie or sugar coat every little thing.Don’t get me wrong. I’m not Mommy Dearest. I bake cookies more often than I buy them at the store. I drive my kids to activities, watch dance recitals, volleyball games, track meets, and music concerts. I’ve done the PTO thing, chaperoned field trips and middle school dances.But I think by being honest and forthright with my kids, they will be better prepared for life. They are bright, funny people. I haven’t ruined them. Yet, anyway. But when I give a compliment or am asked for an opinion, my kids know to believe it. When they ask for information, I answer them. When my daughter was about 9, she asked me what a condom was. I did pretend not to hear her, but when she asked again, I told her, in terms she could understand. When I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, I told them everything I knew about it and have kept them informed throughout. So go ahead and ask them what kind of mom they have. I know how they will answer: “Mommy is the best mommy in the whole world and beautiful and smart.” Completely unscripted. I swear….
How about you? How is YOUR mothering style different from your mom's? How is it similar? Were there ever moments when you felt guilty for not responding to your child's requests? How have YOU handled tricky questions from your kids?
"In Celebration of Mothers" is a weekly series devoted to guest posts about, well, motherhood. You don't have to be a blogger, a mom, or even a woman to write about a mothering experience! Do you have a story you'd like to share? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear your story!