When I was out on my trail run this morning I saw a bush full of little bluebirds. It reminded me of you, and our walk the other day when we saw them in a tree singing away like only bluebirds can do. We talked about so many things that day, how bluebirds symbolize happiness and how you had been thinking lately that maybe you had failed as a mother– I believe you were referencing when my sisters and I were younger. It got me thinking about motherhood and with Mother’s day being this weekend, I thought it was appropriate to say a few things about it.
Although I think there is nothing wrong with exploring the past so that we understand ourselves and so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes, I don’t think that it’s necessary to continue to look at our the past the same way over and over. What I mean is, well, I’m asking you to look at the past with a fresh pair of eyes.
You saved every penny of your babysitting money since the time you were 12, so that you could attend college. You were so driven to get out of your unspeakably dark home life, that you worked tirelessly until you had the means to leave. When you left for college you were 17 and had never been away from home. You were like a life raft aimlessly floating in the open ocean with no anchor and no navigation system to speak of.
You met my father who was intelligent, funny and charming. You had never been around that type of person, and your life raft looked at him as if he was grandest vessel that ever sailed. You were 19. You were still a child when you had my sister. You were mature, loving and caring, but you were young and not prepared emotionally. There were no parenting books, you had no strong role model, you were drifting.
There was divorce, infidelity, violence, drugs, food stamps, lies, there was hurt and anger…. and three small children who were being raised in a storm. There was some hard times, some really tough circumstances, but you were not a failure. To me, nothing could be further from the truth.
First of all, during all of those tumultuous years there is one thing that you didn’t realize. You forgot that you were a life raft, sure we may have had our moments of floating around the big open ocean, but you taught me to survive. You can look at mistakes as failures but any champion knows that all human life is full of difficulties–no one is void from it. Champions are who they are, not because they haven’t failed. They are where they are, because, despite falling, they’ve picked themselves up and they kept going. You are not a failure as a Mom. You are a champion Mother.
Maybe you are comparing yourself to the parenting of today. In this world, many kids get everything handed to them on a silver platter. They have the finest cars, dine out every week, go on lavish vacations, and wear only designer clothing. Many children in his generation don’t have to work for anything, and yet, when they become adults they find themselves depressed. Why is this? Because they have nothing to aspire to.
They don’t have to work for anything, nothing satisfies them and they don’t know why. They don’t know how to save money, what it’s like to long for something, or the feeling of going without. Everything is given to them at a moments notice. So, if this is what you consider successful parenting, well then I guess you were a failure. But, I’m here to say “no.” This is not successful parenting. My greatest happiness and joy has come from working tirelessly for something that I desire. And you taught me that.
I dreamed of running the Boston Marathon, so I tried and failed several times over. But, because of you and everything you taught me, I picked myself up and kept trying and eventually I got there. I have wanted to write all of my life, but was scared because I felt my skills weren’t good enough. I have been criticized and made fun of, but I kept going and now I write this blog and that is because of you. You taught me never to give up, how to power through my pain, and how to love with all of my heart.
Was our life easy and full of silver platters? No, it was not and I sit here and write this with my eyes full of grateful tears. You never once denied your love for me…. that was my life boat. Children don’t need things, children need love, and you provided a tidal wave of that to me. Happiness isn’t what college you went to. Happiness is in the simplest of things, like a tree full of bluebirds, and you may not know this, but you taught me that.
We didn’t have things, but you showed me how exciting the spiral on a simple snail was, or the joyful feeling of finding a heart shaped rock. How satisfying the smell of of a eucalyptus tree is first thing in the morning. You taught me that the meaning of life isn’t in the car that you drive or the job that you have. There may have been times when I strayed away from these lessons, but now that I have my own family, I see how priceless those moments were.
Falling doesn’t make you a failure. What makes you a failure is not getting back up, or worse… giving up. You never gave up. You’re still picking yourself up and trying again. How can you say you were a failure? Falling is what made you such a success.
So on this Mother’s day, I ask that you wake up each morning with a fresh set eyes. That you forgive yourself for choices made a very long time ago. That you praise yourself for the many things you did right. That you change your words from “failure” to “falling.” And that we may enjoy each day from here on out loving each other to the fullest.
You are my snail spiral, my heart shaped rock, my life boat, my bluebird. You are the true happiness and the joy in my life. Thank you, Mom, for teaching me so many things, but most of all to stand up and to keep moving forward when I fall.
I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.