Kidding. I didn’t. I deliberately did not have them. Other than early on in my marriage, it has not been an issue.
At that time I had well meaning and perplexed friends tell me that I was going to regret it. (Nope) I was told that I’d never know what real love is. (Doubtful, but I can live with that). I was even asked in hushed tones what was wrong with me. (Nothing, other than an overwhelming need to organize everything). Finally, I’d be accused of hating children. (No. It was just complete disinterest. I love my nieces and nephews, and I’m pretty sure they would testify to that).
I quote Tallulah Bankhead frequently by saying: “I’m not childless, darling, I’m child free.” That’s really the only thing Tallulah and I have in common. She had four abortions before she was 30, struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction, and was infamous for her uninhibited sex life. I’m a Mennonite by comparison, except for the pacifism.
This Mothers Day will be my second without my own mum. She died on April 22nd, 2015. You can read about that here.
As I am not a mum myself, I no longer have any reason to mark the date. However, this year I decided to commemorate it by writing a post about my two sisters who actually are mums. Magnificent mums. I have three impressive nieces and two exceptional nephews as proof.
I wasn’t witness to my sister Sarah and her mothering skills, as we were estranged for years. Luckily, that has come to an end, and I now live in the same city as her. She and her wife must have done something right, as both her children are bright, articulate and polite. I’ll be working with her oldest this summer as he will be running a local race with me this fall, along with a few other family members. He just turned fourteen, an age that can induce large eye rolls, but he is intelligent, and converses easily with adults without coming across as ingratiating. He’s great to be around and both my husband and I truly enjoy his company. Their daughter is a typical pre-teen, and luckily for me, loves sparkly girly things. Jewelry, clothes…the more bedazzled the better. I love giving her little gifts and watching her eyes light up. My plan is to get her used to stilettos before she is fifteen, if Sarah doesn’t catch on to my plan and thwarts me. I wish I had stories about them that I could write, but because of stubbornness between sisters, those are memories I will never have.
I watched my sister Wendy rear three children practically by herself. Her husband was a professional athlete, which necessitated him being away for long periods of time. Even when he was home, much of his time was devoted to the game. At that level, you are always training and that’s where the focus has to be. I never sensed that my sister resented that fact. Her three children were each, sensibly, two years apart in age. I watched her sacrifice her own wants and needs to ensure that her kids had the things we did not growing up. I’m not talking about material things, though certainly she was able to give them that. I’m referring to the attention she lavished on them. I felt that she focused on each child and let their individual natures shine.
Wendy consistently put herself last. (I know this for a fact, as I consistently put myself first and I can easily see the difference). She wore all those completely cliched and unfashionable Christmas sweaters just to bring a smile to her children’s faces, and a smirk to mine. She bought endless cans of green beans because, according to her two daughters, the fresh ones tasted funny. On one of our many shared vacations to Florida, she massaged her youngest daughters feet after a long day at Universal studios, when I’m sure she could have used the expert services of a registered massage therapist herself. On another vacation to Florida, this time without any children, Wendy forgot her underwear because she was too busy organizing childcare for her three kids, ensuring that every contingency had been planned for…other than no underwear for her. Note: it is impossible to find adult underwear at the Disney resort. You must go to the nearest mall.
I remember helping Wendy make dinner one night, with all three kids yelling and playing in the family room. For me it was like a root canal listening to the arguing and screaming. It did not bother Wendy at all. She had lit the gas stove top and I was handing her a frying pan. She whipped out a bottle of Pam and sprayed the pan with it and we both gasped loudly in horror as in a split second, a flame ignited over the gas element. Just as quickly it was out and we looked directly at each other and burst out laughing. Not because we thought the potential fire bomb was funny, but because we both looked so cartoonishly shocked.
The living room commotion had stopped because the kids wanted to know what had happened that was so funny, and I realized in that moment that the noise wasn’t so bad after all. I was with family, and I was more the lucky for it.
There were times, when her kids were young, that I thought they might kill each other. Of course, being a child expert, I would silently judge that I would have done a much better job of making them bond. Parenting seems super duper easy when you’re sitting in a comfy over sized chair, sipping wine, and deliberating that if YOU were in charge things would be different. Hmmm…I wonder if drinking a fine Cabernet can make you extra condescending?
One Christmas Eve we were all sitting around Wendy’s lit fireplace, playing game after game. The room was so cozy and warm, with the lights dimmed down and pine scented candles burning. All of a sudden her oldest boy tipped over a candle and the flame, as well as the hot wax, burned him. He was understandably shocked and stood up quickly and started to cry a bit. He was fine, but scared. After a few seconds, Wendy’s oldest daughter started sobbing. She was so upset that something terrible could have happened to her brother. She wrapped her arms around him and just hugged him tightly. At that moment, I came to the conclusion that I was apparently full of shite about the kids not having a bond, and that perhaps my sister knew what she was doing after all……pass the Cabernet and hold the condescension, please.
This year Wendy’s kids will be 27, 25 and 23, which actually doesn’t make them kids anymore. All young adults. Each one is a fabulous human being, and that is largely due to Wendy. She put off her own education in order to raise her kids, finally going to University herself, part time, when the kids were in school. Wendy finally obtained a Masters Degree of Science in Education in 2006, though she was teaching well before that.
Sarah’s kids will be 15 and 11 this year. Sarah works for a large multinational company in a senior position and works her ass off, alongside her wife, to provide all the things for her children that Sarah did not get, or experience, when she was those ages. She works really long hours but she still makes sure she is present for milestones in her kids lives.
Both of my sisters completely impress me with their mothering skills, because nothing was modeled for them. That’s not an indictment of our mother. I’m just stating a fact. My mum mothered based upon what was modeled for her. She simply did not know better, and in her defense, she spent a vast majority of her time dodging my fathers attempts at completely destroying her self esteem and spirit.
I should insert here, that according to both my sisters, my mother more than made up for her deficiencies as a mum by being a phenomenal grandmother. Something they both deeply appreciate now that she is no longer with us.
My sisters broke that cycle of careless mothering. There’s nothing indifferent about their maternal instincts from my vantage point. Oh, if you asked them they would both give you a long laundry list of terrible mistakes they’ve made, but I put that down to questioning past parenting decisions, and that alone proves my point about being a great mother. You’re probably always second guessing.
Happy Mothers Day to both my siblings. I think you are both amazing mums!
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