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.


Juliet said...

Just love the phrase, "With his dad." Once again you have made me laugh. And also proud of your writing abilities.

And yes, Candice is not only a great family member, but a great friend.

So happy to see you back at your blogging. Love you, MOM

MommaHarms said...

No one is SuperMom - those who appear to be often struggle terribly in something else, such as totally neglecting their marriage - I have a friend who "does it all" for her kids and friends, homemade cards and ginormous birthday parties, but she rarely talks to her hubby, they fight a lot, and as they are not saved, probably will end up in divorce at some point, excpet that he has $$$ that she needs.

I will say this - don't discount sign language altogether. I taught my kids three signs - more or please, thank you, and drink. Since I have late talkers, it helped sooooooo much when they wanted to communicate but couldn't. Natalie, especially, was so frustarted when I wouldn't understand what she wanted, but she could say more or drink, and then I would figure it out. She didn't talk until she was nearly two, so you can imagine she had something to say before then. Just a thought, not pressure. :)

I totally get the way you feel that everyone else does the supermom thing. Working from home, I have to let some things slide. As a working mom, you may too. It's fine. Your child will grow up loved, healthy, and with a roof over his head. THat's what's most important!

Jeannette said...

love this! thanks for sharing how you've been encouraged in encourages me! little sam has one amazing mommy!

Sun-Kissed Scholars said...

Awwww, Candice sounds like an angel. I love friends (and relatives) who love me for who I am, and support & encourage me.

Your list did crack me up! I did do most of those things, but never considered myself supermom; just thought I was eclectic, unusual, whatever you want to call it... "weird?"

Sometimes I've felt the same pressures from the other end:
No, I don't work outside the home.
No, I don't send my kids to school.
No, my kids don't drink soda.
Yes, I will happily give my two-year old bottles of glitter and paint and let him go crazy.
Yes, I nursed my kids until they were 2-years old.
Yes, I fully expect that a 2-year old can hike a trail with the rest of us...

any one of those statements can bring out the "you what?!" stare from people.

It comes down to being the person that God wants YOU to be, doing what's best for YOUR family (and no one can tell you what that is!) And seeing other people as unique and special creations, too. It sure would stink if we were all just alike. We'd never be able to learn anything from anyone.

((hugs)) to a great mom!

Alice said...

It's a good life lesson to learn early. No one can do and be everything, and you'll just get frustrated trying.

I used to feel like such a bad mother every time we would go to the playground. Every other mom there had sand toys, sippy cups, goldfish crackers, granola bars, changes of clothes, spray bottles, sunscreen, etc., while the Daniels girls just rolled up, wearing our shades.

Then I realized we didn't need all that stuff there, and I hated dragging it all around anyway.

You gotta do what works for you and leave the guilt behind.

Cindy Swanson said...

As always, good stuff, Ann-Marie!

I can't believe Brielle is almost two...time does fly.

And little Sam is SO adorable!

Carol Lea (Rehfeldt) Ashmore said...

Ann-Marie, just love the way you phase things. You do have so many talents and one we all love is your writing - when can we expect a book? (Don't forget that all us Rehfeldts have certain limitations and also we know what your limitations are - ha ha! Just kidding.) From: one unsuper mom - don't go by what my kids say either (good or bad).

CANDICE said...

Really your to kind! Lol. I think Brielle would want you as her "NOT" mom. Cause she always is wanting me to read her a book.... I always tell her to tell me what is going on in the book... Talk about bad mothering... lol. No I "Usually" read it back to her. Sam is going to love having you as a mother. Enjoy the ride. Don't know of a more important ride to go on. Luv your cuz.

Silsbee said...

Sam is gorgeous. We've just recently done the camping thing...the kids went with Scott and I stayed home to clean and garden. I loved it that way. It is easy to compare ourselves to others and feel like we don't measure up. Learning not to do that is one of the most freeing things a parent can do. God gives enough standards to keep us busy anyway. :) Lori

A Joyful Chaos said...

What a great post! Thanks so much for sharing.

Ann with an E said...

Ann-Marie, this touched me so much!! I have always felt guilt over doing or not doing things-even by people who are well meaning. But it's so true-we have to do things the way we do them and not the way everyone else does. I am learning and I hope my kids can forgive me someday for all of my mistakes in raising them. Thanks for writing this!!:)