Three Things I did Right as a Mother – the Challenge

imagesRecently, a reader posted a challenge to me to write about three things I did right as a mother; I honestly did not think it was going to be so difficult, however, I can think of two things fairly easily, but the third one is going to be a challenge.

As my children have fairly unique names and I would not want anybody to read this allowing it to get back to them, as they are already embarrassed by me enough, I will call them X and Y; X being 15 months older than Y.

***

One

When X and Y were around 2 and 3, I took a part-time job working two days a week for a manufacturing plant working in their company store.  The plant was extremely progressive boasting an on-site daycare or I never would have taken the position since it was mostly a wash on my salary.

Both of the girls hated going to the daycare; they were used to our days together of playing in the parks, water coloring, or going to the library or free museums.  I took advantage of anything free in our small community; as we lived on an incredibly tight budget.

A few months into my new work experience, the receptionist was terminated; the plant manager asked if I could step in while they looked for a replacement.  This would mean full-time daycare for X and Y, but it also meant a full-time paycheck; at least for a few weeks.  I had not worked since I had been a teenager, so I was excited but apprehensive; still, I accepted.

My two-week stint as the replacement receptionist turned into a full-time gig and I became the receptionist permanently.  The girls were miserable; frankly, we all were.  The extra money turned out not to be very much by the time daycare was taken out of my meager entry-level salary; and, I missed so much work because the girls were constantly sick from the daycare exposure.  I still had to pay all of those days, though.

I was exhausted, too; I worked all day and then still came home and prepared full meals from scratch every night for the three of us, and sometimes four if my husband was home.  I was still responsible for the cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping as well; not to mention the entertainment schedule for X and Y.

One day, while driving home from work, I was just too tired to make dinner; Y was a little older than three by then.  I decided to stop by McDonald’s and buy the girls the famed Chicken Nuggets; they had never eaten there.  Take-out was a luxury we couldn’t afford, but I decided we had a little extra money by then, so what the heck.

When we arrived home, I spread the food out on the table and tried to make it exciting for the girls with the tiny plastic toy that came with their meal.

Both girls just glared at me; however, it was Y who got up from the table and got a cookbook out and brought it to me begging, “Mommy, can’t you please just make a recipe?”

Their entire lives we rarely ate fast food; even years later when I remarried and we could clearly afford to.  I cooked for them every chance I could, trying to teach them it was better for them, and showing them I loved them with what I made.

Years later when X and Y were 19 and 20 and I lived thousands of miles away, Y called to tell me she was helping X move to a new apartment.  “Mom,” she spoke into the phone, “I just looked into X’s freezer.  She has all kinds of frozen meals in here.  Pizza, all kinds of junk.  Do you know she eats out at fast-food places all the time?”

I was stunned, I didn’t know what to say, “Y, I am thousands of miles away, and she is an adult, what do you want me to do?”

“I don’t know, Mom,” she replied, “Talk to her, we weren’t raised this way.  It’s wrong.  I make everything from scratch.  I could teach her if she needs me to.  She is just being lazy.”

I had no answers for her and she finally hung up the phone on me.

***

Two

When X graduated from high school, I took her on a trip to Minnesota to go to the Mall of America; everybody said, “Oh, you have to go, once in a lifetime shopping trip.”  Wrong.  Basically, it is a huge mall with several of the same stores over and over again.  Besides, I have no idea what I was thinking, as we are not really people who shop for no reason; I do not window shop, and I did not raise my children to aimlessly mill around if they were not purchasing something.

Still, we were there for five days; so we made the best of our time in the area.  We did go to the mall twice.  Once we were there for four hours and another time we went back for three hours.

The rest of our time in the area we went sight-seeing; we went to an old historic battleground, Fort Snelling something or other; we went to a castle; we went on a Mississippi River boat cruise; and we went to several museums.  Our days were filled exploring the city.

One of the best nights we had was going out to a fancy dinner where we delighted in paying $8 for a glass of tap water, and $10 to park our tiny rental car blocks away from the restaurant.  We enjoyed each other in a way we hadn’t in months.  She had been a pain since turning 18 and deciding she no longer had to follow the house rules; needless to say our home had been tension filled.

There was a lull during our trip when I turned to her and apologized for the trip not being as exciting as I had hoped; it seemed it was a little more boring than expected.  I was happily surprised by her response, “Mommy,” she has always called me Mommy, “You raised us to never be bored.  Only boring people can be boring, I am having a great time, thanks for bringing me.”

We went on to talk about what life was like when she was little; how I often times had to do so much with so little, making everything from scratch.  We laughed about how I would buy sheets from the thrift store for $0.50 and make matching outfits for her and Y.   We talked about how I made Barbie Doll clothes one year for them for Christmas, and how challenging it was to sew them because they are so tiny.

She seemed really appreciative, until our flight was cancelled; then she flipped out and became hostile at the airport, but that is an entirely different story.

***

Three

On December 31, 1994, X and Y’s dad came to me and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.  I don’t want to be a dad or a husband.”  With that, he took two boxes of his things and drove away.  I later found out he had a 17 year-old girlfriend who was pregnant with his baby; he was 27 and we had been married for 7 years.

I moved in with my parent’s two states away; I immediately got a job and applied for college.  Other than my brief foray as a receptionist, I had not worked since I was a teenager; but I did not have a choice now.  My future ex-husband never sent a dime to support X and Y from the moment he walked out the door.

A few months after he left, he called and wanted to reconcile; we had gone back and forth as teenagers, but I was done playing games, I just couldn’t do that now that X and Y were in the picture.  As soon as I declined, he started to get nasty; the police showed up at my parent’s with a warrant for my arrest for kidnapping my children, and I had to get an attorney to defend myself.

As the months wore on, the fight got uglier, but I continued working and going to school; all the while, trying to maintain as much normalcy for X and Y as I could.  When their father would call, he would start to curse and tell them ugly things about me, so I would gently take the phone and hang up; leaving them in tears.  They were still very young, Y was just turning 5 and X had turned 6 by the time our divorce was finalized.

By the time everything was over with him, he never voluntarily paid anything for their support.  As soon as the child support order went into effect, he quit his job; so his unemployment was garnished and the kids did get something until it ran out.  After that, they would get checks for $2 to $0.32 for the next few years; then three years after the divorce, he finally terminated his parental rights.

My second husband adopted the girls and their biological father rarely saw them afterwards.   He simply was not a very good father; he did not provide financially, and when he saw them or spoke to them, he was high and belligerent.

However, during all those years, I never spoke one demeaning word about him.  I always believed the girls had a right to determine who he was on their own, that it was not my place to run him down.  I felt if I had issues with him because he was not right for me, I did not have to burden them with my bad feelings; that would serve no purpose for them.

I think that is something I did right.

6 thoughts on “Three Things I did Right as a Mother – the Challenge

  1. You amuse me sometimes. Your three things you could barely think of that you did right as a mother. Let me count them:

    1: I’m not clear what the ONE thing is here. That you took a job? There are thousands of things here that you aren’t counting. Let’s count a home-cooked meal as one good thing you did. (365 days)x(18 years)= 6,570 good things you did for each kid. Two kids? double that. Two meals each day for each kid? double it again. Three? triple it instead. Each time you took them to the park, each time you read them a story at night, each time you took them to the doctor, each time you helped with homework. Are you getting the picture? Do you understand the magnitude of what a fantastic mother you were in the context mother’s in general? You were a gem beyond compare.

    2: More evidence of the many things you did. Are we playing a game here? Are you pretending to not know that many mothers don’t do this shit? The trip to the mall was a single thing. Fort Snelling, the riverboat cruise, museums, each of these are more things to be added to the list INDIVIDUALLY. The life lesson, “Only boring people can be boring . . .” is a gift that keeps giving every day for a lifetime. You make clothes that match for your daughters, HUGE THINGS. And the doll clothes. If you are not Mother of the Year then perhaps you are the Greatest Mother of ALL FUCKING TIME.

    3: Sounds like Daddy owes you a lot of money. Might still be enforceable but I’m not familiar with such things. The big thing here, obviously, is that you allowed, and perhaps taught, your daughters to think for themselves. You think you did something right there? That was astoundingly good.

    You are a thousand times a better mother than most. I am almost angry at the coy way you present all this material but your consistent character across this entire blog suggests otherwise. I have no other means at my disposal than to exercise the tough love of demanding you get over yourself. Once your daughters were away from you someone poisoned their view of you. That is in spite of the wonderful loving atmosphere you provided them most of their lives. TIME is what most children do not get from their parents. And it is that TIME they most need to receive.

    I admire you. I have come to care. You were a fantastic mother as I have been reading between the lines throughout these blog articles. It is time you came to realize that your own feelings do not coincide with reality on this issue. Regardless of what anyone tells you, you were a fantastic mother. Now accept this lavish praise and let’s move onward. I know this will take a lot of time and repetition. You are worth the bother.

    • Sir,
      Thank you so much for reading… and for taking so much time to respond.

      I do not try to pretend that I was perfect; there was a time I was not home every night. When I went back to school, I was not home for dinner several nights a week, and my second husband, the one who adopted them, had to prepare meals and eat with them. But, the three of them always had their meals together; and when I was not in school, I was there.

      Then, there was a time I had a nervous break down, quite literally; and I moved out of the home. Having nowhere else to go, I moved in with my parents. It was a horrible environment for my children, so they could not come. However, their adopted father was wonderful, so they stayed with him and I had him on weekends if they chaos at my parent’s house permitted. It killed me, my heart was broken; and, although my ex and I could not work it out, he was a wonderful parent… much better than I.

      I always tried to do so much better than I thought my parents had; I gave all I could. I wanted to instill a love of reading, if nothing else, as I always believed it was the foundation of everything, science, math, music… life. Both of my girls are avid readers and absolutely brilliant. We read constantly when they were little; and, as they grew, we allowed very little television. As they grew older, they chose books. My oldest still does not even subscribe to cable television; the youngest only because her husband. However the last I spoke to her (almost six months ago now), she was not even familiar with most of the shows on.

      I did the best I could, I provided the best I could financially; I was not perfect, but I could not have loved them more.

      I wish they knew.

      Always,
      Me

      • No one is claiming that you were perfect, but you were a damned fine mother. I encourage you to accept that.

        The very best of us falter from time to time. Things very understandably got to be too much for you for too long and you broke. That is not your fault. Sometimes your best effort is not enough, and no matter how hard you try you never feel that you did everything you could. You tried so very very hard. I am so proud of you.

        You make me think of my wife. Before I ever met her she had two boys that she had to give up. Their father and his village of a family were much better able to take care of those boys than she was and they took the boys and raised them well. Some of her family thing that giving up her sons was the most horrible thing. She did what she had to do and she did what was best for those boys. I don’t pry into the specifics and I don’t think I’ll ever know the whole story. What is important is that she is happy with me now and we are moving forward. You too, when you broke down, left your girls in good care.

        I do understand your continuing hurt as you love your girls and they have been convinced that you were a bad mother. I am saddened as I suggest that you continue to love them and continue to be hurt by their poisoned opinion. Such is life sometimes.

        I anticipate you moving forward in your own life. Fill your heart with those you love and don’t look back. You have half your life to yet live to the fullest.

      • Sir,
        I hurt for your wife… she must be in a great deal of pain; and I can only imagine how wonderful she must be for you to love her.

        You are incredibly insightful, kind and generous. I find myself looking forward to your reactions each day…

        Please do not get me wrong; I write straight from the heart, honestly… however, when each piece is finished, I pause, wondering if you will be inspired, disappointed, bewildered, or saddened… or even something else.

        Thank you for being somewhere out there.

        Always,
        Me

  2. I should write about how I met my wife. I fear she would not like me to do so, that some things are private between us even though there is nothing offensive or in actual need of keeping secret. Some things she thinks are private between us and I respect that.

    You will not disappoint me. I might sometimes disagree or seem angry. If I’m angry it is in defense of you. I need you to understand that.

    My intent is to continue this for a very long time if need be. Maybe even if there is no need. I enjoy the challenges you present.

    • Thank you, Sir. I hope it will last for eternity.

      And, while I am an open book (some say I have no filter on my mouth – or my fingers, as it were), I understand others have a need for privacy in their relationships.

      Always,
      Me

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