Friday, January 22, 2010

The Unique Journey

I love my cousin, Candice.

I mean, I’d love her anyway, because she’s family.

But I also love her because she’s honest with me when I wear something stupid and ask her opinion. She also keeps up with what’s trendy and what’s not and manages to look great without looking like she’s trying to look great.

I love knowing I can call her if a.) my husband locks himself out of our house, and I can’t leave work to let him in and b.) I just want to watch cable TV and eat cupcakes. She is always there for me, low-key and beautiful in all the right ways.

I love her for walking me through pregnancy and childbirth with a laid-back attitude. My first day home from the hospital after Sam’s birth was a nightmare. I was stressed, sleep-deprived, and a raw bundle of hormones and jacked-up nerves. I practically cried with relief when she showed up on my doorstep, Brielle in hand, and held the baby while I finally got to rest.

I think what I love best about Candice is that she assures me I can BE a mother. I don’t have to be Super Mom to be a super mom.

Growing up, my mother could not cook. I mean, she made “turkey burgers” that were actually gray and looked, smelled, and (I’m guessing) tasted like rotting, decaying flesh. Disgusting.

Dad and I used to joke about Mom’s cooking. We ate a LOT of TV dinners. Mom kept trying, and we kept tasting. Heaven knows I didn’t starve (quite the opposite, actually), but I never “filled up” on Mom’s cooking.

A couple of years ago, Mom and I were talking, and she mentioned her lack of cooking skills. I said the first thing that came to mind, “You didn’t have to be a good cook to be a good mom.”

I realized right after I said it how much I meant it. I mean, I’ve met some great cooks who were not great parents.

I thank God for the unique talents of my parents.

My dad was not a sports nut. He watched sports and would cheer for the Bears and the Bulls, but he wasn’t a fanatic. Instead, we bonded over reading books about World War II and watching sci-fi TV shows like the X-Files and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

My mom and I loved to go shopping and spend hours talking about anything and everything. Mom did crafts, but I wasn’t a fan, so I’d just talk to her as she cross-stitched sweatshirt after sweatshirt. We’d hole up on couches in the living room, and she’d read Dick Francis and Victoria Holt while I sped through my Calvin and Hobbes collection.

Getting back to Candice, and what prompted me to write this post in the first place, she sent me a birthday invitation the other day. Brielle, my beautiful not-niece, will turn 2 on Monday. I was so excited to have Sam’s (or “my Sammies” as Brielle calls him) first birthday party invitation!

I was even more excited to see it was a plain card with an adorable little monkey on the front (Small Paul, for those of you who know who he is). Candice had written in the information in plain black ink with a pen.

That’s it.

No personalized frou-frou handmade card with scalloped edges, no seed packet with re-planting instructions, no “please send a donation to Happy Little Helpers in Brielle’s name.”


Just a “come out and party at the playground!” in black and white.

Now, I’m not saying fancy pants invitations are bad. I’m just saying for crying out loud, I sure don’t have the time or patience to mess with it when it’s my kid’s turn.

So, getting Brielle’s invitation once again reassured me I don’t have to completely reform my personality and turn into a pre-jail Martha Stewart happy little homemaker to be a quality parent.

I don’t have to do crafts.
I don’t have to breastfeed.
I don’t have to homeschool.
I don’t have to use cloth diapers.
I don’t have to teach my kid sign language.
I don’t have to feed my son only organic food.

I can be a good parent in so many ways. Ways that have nothing to do with any of those things.

Again, I’m not saying those are bad things. I’m just saying they are not me.

It is so freeing to look forward to being myself with Sam. I can’t wait to introduce him to the joys of reading. I can’t wait to make up special stories just for him. I can’t wait to see what HE wants to do.

My parents always encouraged me to find my passion. I played the drums in high school. I learned tennis with a bunch of public school kids through the Park District. I met other kids through the Whiz Kids writing class I took in middle school. And despite my deep and abiding loathing for the out-of-doors, I flourished alongside other thespians at Camp Joy’s Drama Camp.

I emerged from my parent’s home feeling like I really lived! And that’s the same experience I want for Sam. My parents didn’t change who they were in order to be good parents. They encouraged me to try new things and were excited when I found things I loved (tennis, no – writing, yes). They used our shared joys (reading, shopping) for bonding experiences. For the other things, they introduced me to mentors who loved the same things I did!

I’m hope I’m not discouraging the crafty, do-it-all moms out there with the time and talent who truly do it all, and do it all well. It’s just that I know my limitations. And I’m just so relieved they won’t stop me from mothering well.

In the end, I know we all want what’s best for our kids. We want them to be well-adjusted, accepting, loving, caring, and happy.

Every journey is different, and I plan to celebrate the uniqueness of ours.

Even if Sam loves sports and camping. I mean, of course, he can do those things.

With his dad.