By Dorothy Rosby
My mother raised ten children in a three-bedroom house with one bathroom. And she did it without a cell phone, a mini-van, or a reality show. She’s a remarkable woman, and I could have learned a great deal from her if I were the type to catch on.
As we near Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think about all the ways I wish I was like my mom. For example, I wish I’d learned to stay cool under pressure like she does. When I was a child, I watched her prepare more food for every meal than I cook in three days. I watched her kill a rattlesnake that was coiled up in the yard near where I was playing. It didn’t stand a chance. I watched her pull a needle out of my thumb after I sewed over it with the sewing machine. I quit sewing shortly after that.
So it could have been a reality show around our house, but despite the drama, I never saw my mother curse, yell, or collapse into tears. She’s either a saint or she was in a constant state of shock.
If I had watched my mother closer, I would have learned how to be patient with the shortcomings of others. Out of all the possible explanations for someone’s rude behavior, she always chooses the one that leaves her feeling the least slighted. “They’re busy. They’re tired. They forgot.” I never once heard her say, “What a JERK,” which I’ve already said three times today. She doesn’t gossip or trash the reputation of others and she doesn’t join in when those around her do, even when I try to get her to.
One big lesson my son hopes I learn from my mother is that once your kids leave home, you’re no longer “the boss of them.” You don’t get to tell them to clean their rooms anymore, or eat their vegetables, or come in by midnight–unless they move out when they’re eight years old. Of course, you can try to tell them, but you shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t listen–and if they don’t seem happy to see you.
I’m not speaking about your children, of course, but did you know there are adults who dread visits from their mother because they worry she’ll criticize their spouse or check for dust bunnies under the beds. And they’re afraid she’ll ask when they’re going to have children, or when they’re going to have MORE children. My mother never, from the moment I left home, commented negatively on my housekeeping, my parenting, my cooking, or my clothing. Plenty of visitors who are not my mother have criticized all of the above. I don’t invite them back.
Another lesson my son hopes I learn from my mother is that it’s best not to offer unsolicited advice to your adult children–and maybe no one else either. The magical result of my mother never giving unsolicited advice is that her children solicit it, calling long distance to ask her how to make gravy without lumps or sauerkraut casserole, though not all our spouses fully appreciate that recipe.
I mean no offense to any other mother, but I’ve actually heard certain women say with great trepidation: “OH NO! I’m becoming my mother.” Of course, reader, that wasn’t your daughter. Nor was it my daughter, but only because I don’t have a daughter.
I WISH I could be more like my mother. Coincidentally, my son also wishes I could be more like my mother. Unfortunately, the apple not only fell far from the tree, it rolled down the hill and across the street. I have high hopes though. My son has been blessed to spend lots of time with my mother. Maybe he’ll be more like her.