Letters from a Not So Perfect Mother

Jackie Gingrich Cushman
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Posted: May 11, 2008 12:01 AM

Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908 in Grafton, W. Va., and Philadelphia, Pa. Anna Jarvis was the driving force behind the creation of Mother’s Day, driven by the desire to honor her deceased mother. After Jarvis waged a two-year letter-writing campaign, Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s day in 1914.

There are more than 82 million mothers in the United States. Mothers with children under the age of 18 represent 46 percent of them, or almost 38 million mothers. Wow, that’s a lot of mothers. I became one of those mothers eight and half years ago.

Since then, Mother’s Day has gained additional meaning for me. First, it was a day for my husband to thank me for mothering our child. More recently, it has become a day for our children to express their love for me. It is a day of great anticipation and excitement.

The daily activities of mothering have changed, now that both of my children are in grammar school. While they were infants and toddlers, my mothering focused on taking care of them physically, bathing and dressing them, putting on their shoes. My mothering has transitioned to offering them emotional support, providing structure and discipline.

This past week has been filled with a flurry of activity in preparation for the end of the school year. It seems as if the events and activities increase exponentially when the end is in sight. Possibly it is a plan by the teachers, school administrators and after-school coaches to wean us mothers from the school year, when our children are gone for 7 hours a day, and prepare us for summer, when they never leave our side. But I am just hoping that I make it to summer.

So far this week, I have missed Robert, my kindergartner, taking cards in for his teachers (he took them in two days late). Maggie, my second-grade daughter, took in flowers for her teacher two days early. I totally missed out on Maggie’s ballet observation day this week, (though, in my defense, I had just attended her recital two weeks prior), and forgot about providing snacks to the kindergarten class, (thank goodness they had extra on hand), but sent in a supply for Friday.

Still, I was not a total failure. This same week, I attended a lunch at school, watched a French performance, went to field day opening activities, read aloud to the class, purchased shorts logoed with the school mascot for the children to wear for field day, turned in the paperwork to enroll my children in classes for next year and washed their logoed school clothes overnight so they could wear them for the second consecutive day of field day. Maggie is taking in a second flower for her teacher on the correct day, but it did come out a vase of flowers that was in our home.

At first, I was a bit caught up in the few activities that I had overlooked, missed or gotten wrong, but then I realized that if I had been playing in the major leagues, I would be commanding quite a salary for my batting score. So, I decided to look at these misses as learning opportunities for my children and for myself.

As my sister noted to me earlier this week, “No one leads a perfect life, and even little Robert should know this too shall pass with no harm done.” The love for one’s children is so intense that it is easy to become consumed with making their lives perfect, and perfectly happy. While initially this might seem to be our job as parents, we need to remember that we do not live in a perfect world, and part of our jobs is to prepare our children for life in the real world. Teaching them to enjoy life as it comes, and to be able to create opportunities out of mishaps and to continually look on the bright side.

They learn the most from watching others, so be kind to yourself, understand that perfection does not happen, and that others are watching how you react to failure, and will then incorporate those reactions into their lives.

Possibly, if my children can learn to love me when I am not perfect, they will understand that I will love them when they are not perfect. And, that while perfection might be a good goal, it can never be reached. Life goes on – so enjoy the near-perfect moments.

P.S. Happy Mother’s day Mom.