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Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Definition of a Successful Mother

As I approached my closet yesterday, I got to thinking about what to wear. Lately, it's been all jeans and the usual faire, but because I was going to a meeting across town. I needed to look nice. On these occasions, I try to think of what my sister would wear, and I try to imitate her. This is often tricky because I really have spent very little time with her in my life. I did my best, and I think I would have made her proud yesterday. Nice, but not overstated--a blouse, khakis, earrings AND a necklace--unheard of. Oh, and yes, I did wear shoes. To be honest, I wouldn't if I didn't have to.

image: portlandpowersearch.com
I dropped my children at a friend's house and headed for the bridges of Portland to get me where I needed to be.

As I drove, I got to thinking about random things. Yesterday, probably because I'd just been thinking about her, I got to thinking about my sister. I thought of how different we are and how much I love and admire her. Then I found myself thinking that although we're both so different, we're both people who are striving to be good and do what we feel is best for our lives. Here's a little bit of where my brain went....

I was raised in a family of eight. I was the fifth of six children. My sister, who I think is the most beautiful person that walks the earth is the oldest. She was followed by three brothers, and I have one brother younger than me.

My sister and three of my brothers
The funny thing is that, even though we were raised by the same parents, we are two VERY different people.

image: namanu.com
There was one morning, about ten years ago now, when I woke up in a very large adult cabin at Girls' Camp. As I got moving that morning just after I threw on my jeans and t-shirt and got my tennis shoes tied up, I found a woman I didn't recognize. I approached her and introduced myself to her. She shared her name with me and said that she'd just moved into the area.

I asked her where she had moved from. When she told me, I was floored. It was the same town where my sister lived. I asked her if she knew her. She did. I told her that she was my sister. The look on the woman's face was priceless. She was speechless for a few moments and then said, "She's your sister?"

Now, let me explain a little something--probably the same things I explained to this woman....

My sister left for college a few months after I was born. She was raised an only child for eleven years. She was raised by a much younger, energetic mother. I've heard stories of wearing white gloves and catching the bus into town for a shopping trip with mom.

I also need to explain that those things are completely foreign to my way of thinking. Here's why...

I was raised among four brothers. I was the tree-climbing, fend for yourself type. I'm quick with a comeback because I was raised to be. I was in the middle of the fray. My legs had constant bruises. I was disheveled and couldn't have cared less what I wore for most of my childhood.

My world was completely different.

I must state that I believe my sister to be perfect. Even though, she tries to convince me otherwise, I know better and nothing she says will prove that what I'm thinking isn't true. I know it's not fair to place that expectation on her, but she really doesn't have to do anything to maintain that position. Maybe this is how little sisters are supposed to view their older sisters. I don't know, but in my case, it's true.

I also need to add that just because I think she's perfect doesn't diminish me. We're just so different, and I know that I'm doing good enough being me. We're both moving in a good direction because our mother taught us the direction to go. We both continue on that path even though our mother isn't here anymore. Our mom did a good job.

That is where my mind wandered as I drove. Now that I look back at that thought pattern, I see what a tender mercy it was.

After my meeting, I went to go pick my children up from my friend's house. As she opened the door, she shared with me how AWFUL my children had been. I was shocked. I had never heard this kind of report from anyone before. Maybe my youngest children are always awful and no one has been brave enough to tell me. I was so happy that this woman had the guts to stand up and say so so I could do something about it. It is being handled (a future post will cover this topic).

In these cases, it's so easy to blame myself because I'm the only one I can truly control in any situation, and I know that I don't control them. I can love them and persuade them  to do differently. I know, though, from my own upbringing, that they will decide for themselves who they will become and what they will do with their lives.

Showing off for all the neighbor kids.
The amazing thing was that having been one of those "awful children" in my day, I could see both sides of this coin--the mother's view and the child's view. As I ponder on my own children and their lives and upbringing, I often wonder if they're all going to make it. I am very aware that I am not the same mother who raised #1 and #2. I am different. I'm older and much more tired. I wonder if they'll succeed. 

I can see that #7 is very much in my shoes. Will she turn out like me? Will she look at her older sisters and see them as perfect? Will she eventually realize that her upbringing by a tired mother is part of what will make her who she is? 

There is no question that she will be quick with a comeback. She will be bruised and scraped from playing with her brothers. She is in the middle of the fray.

So, I've wondered: will my children turn out successful? Will they recognize the path that I'm striving so hard to lay out in front of them? Will they be able to follow it no matter if they were raised by the young mom or the older mom? 

Our crew
I've realized that my definition of success is really quite simple. I will consider myself successful as a mother if each of my children is worthy to enter the temple at any given moment in their lives. That's it. But it really is up to them ultimately. It's their choice. I just hope that my example, no matter what my age or energy level, is strong enough for them to follow.

Somehow, my mother, who was me when she raised me--older and a bit more tired--was successful. Each of her children have been worthy to enter the temple at any given moment in their lives. At least as far as I've seen. At my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, we were all together, their children and those grandchildren who were of age, in the temple. It was a wonderful day and a wonderful testament to faithful, loving parents.

So, I apologize that my children are awful right now. I hope you will understand and give them the love and patience you can while this older, more tired mother raises them. I hope that you, with me, will hope for their success. It may take some time, but if we don't give up on them, they will get there.

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