A local pastor spoke last week at Bible study about his mother (a friend of mine) who is recently deceased. It was a powerful testimony to her loving, gentle spirit, her quiet strength and the enormous influence she had on his life – particularly his spirituality. I left with three emotions:
1. Renewed appreciation for the woman (and mentor) I knew and loved.
2. A heavy heart in regard to my parenting skills.
3. Hopeful because of the compassion he expressed for the many challenges his mom faced.
I don’t know any mother who doesn’t wish they could go back and do some things differently. Mothers are particularly hard on themselves, and why not? Everything gets blamed on the mom – in perpetuity. We’re the smoking gun in therapy.
Regardless, Cliffe’s tender talk instigated a mental review of my BPMs (Bad Parenting Moments), leaving me with serious concerns as to how my kids will remember me. Will it be:
1. My embarrassing Halloween outfits when I worked the lunch room or the school store?
2. My signature pom-pom gloves waving furiously on the sidelines?
3. The time I got my son kicked off the lacrosse team because of an email I sent to my husband referring to Coach Pompous Ass that arrived in the coach’s mailbox in error?
4. My split on the dance floor during the senior trip, or maybe the banana boat ride?
5. My lack of patience perhaps?
Or will it be my consistent, though flawed, love for God and for them? Despite their frequent eye-rolling responses to my Godspeak, I believe my faith was the most consistent positive message I lived. It may have been the only one, but if I had to pick one thing I’d like them to remember, it’s that I’ve always made God a priority. They don’t realize how much worse it could have been had I not. Sure there were many consistent failings as well, and I pray they choose to remember them with compassion as they mature and have children of their own. Sadly, giving birth doesn’t cure any personal defects. In fact, parenting often magnifies them. It’s the most humbling job I’ve ever undertaken.
I thought of my own mom, and it’s bizarre the things that stick in your mind – like that generation’s obsession with having clean underwear. What the heck? That’s what’s going to concern you when I’m in the hospital? Some of the best parenting advice available at the time has now not only been discredited, but is hysterical in its absurdity. Yet, somehow we all survived.
I listen to moms all the time (young and old) bemoan their frequent failings. I perceive these women as model parents and can’t imagine them losing their temper or doing any of the things of which I’m guilty. As moms, we hold ourselves up to an impossible standard of perfection because we are fully aware of the influence we hold over our children. It’s scary.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: “Despite appearances to the contrary, there’s no such thing as a perfect mother.” The perfect mother today may be the raving lunatic you observe in the grocery store tomorrow, as she and/or her children are experiencing a total meltdown. Or in the dressing room trying on prom dresses. Or on a dance floor in Costa Rica. Regardless of our children’s ages, we all have our own stories of imperfect parenting moments, and they grow exponentially with our children.
As I walked down memory lane remembering the many good times and hilarious moments (even the bad ones develop their own humor over time), I realized maybe I wasn’t such a bad mom after all. Imperfect and unconventional, but definitely all in.
In his devotional, Family Ties, John Fischer reminds us that “The real key is not how perfect we are, but how committed we are to each other. How much are we tied together at the end of the day?” He’s not necessarily referring exclusively to our nuclear family. We’re all members of many families in our lives - some we are born into, others we choose: school families, sports families, church families.
The most important family we will ever have the “choice” to be a part of is God’s family. And that’s where that question, “How much are we tied together at the end of the day?” takes on a whole new meaning. Yes, it is often a bumpy road. We’ll all make mistakes again and again, which is why it’s important to remember Fischer’s statement. We can be committed to God and each other without perfection. The effort in trying is all God asks from us. After all, he knows our imperfections better than anyone – except maybe my kids who are more than willing to share mine if you're interested.
Whether it be my own children or the members of any family I am associated with, I pray that despite my many BPMs and even more social transgressions, they choose to remember me with humor and a fraction of the affection and appreciation Cliffe expressed so eloquently for his mom last week.
As she did for her family, Ann Knechtle was a spiritual mentor to me and a true inspiration on many levels. I dedicate this blog to her memory.
Ann J. Knechtle
March 5, 1923 - October 19, 2015
i will leave you with something to think about in regard to being a mother and having a mother.
Choose to cherish your mother while you still can.