This Mother’s Day season I wonder: What if those of us who are mothers would stop scrambling to either be Tiger Moms or busy-body soccer/dance/karate/scouts kinds of moms and just cut the job down to bare bones and settle happily into the natural state of being “good enough” moms?
Why are we so competitive? What are we afraid of? I think deep in our guilt-ridden, tightly-scheduled “mom brains” we imagine that unless we can make ourselves SuperMoms, our beloved babies will grow up to be like Dennis Hopper in the “cult” movie “Blue Velvet,” gleefully inhaling noxious stuff from a gas mask and wailing into Isabella Rosselini’s spread legs: “Mommy!!! MOMMY!!!”
Yeah. Kids THAT messed up.
But I like to think our kids, under a new wave I’ll call Good Enough Motherhood, would just turn out mildly messed up — just enough to fit in with this wild world, to possess the strength needed to rally against it, and fortified with some healthy, All-American sharp, biting wit. Here’s the kind of motherhood I think is good enough: A friend of mine once told me about the time her son told her, “I HATE YOU!” And she glowered back at him like an eagle contemplating its prey just before devouring it: “Kid, I’ve been hated by better than you!” This is the exact — and hilarious — kind of give and take real life motherhood instinctively teaches us. When as a new mother you hold that sweet-smelling new baby in your arms, you have no way of knowing yet that very soon the teacher in this relationship won’t be you – it’ll be your child.
We all know our children on indescribable, visceral levels and discern what they need from us. And we plunge into motherhood, give and give and give. But what no parenting book will ever admit is that all too often, “giving” really means doing nothing at all, rather instead standing back and watching our kids’ falls, tears and scrapes from a distance. We learn the incredible patience of waiting for our child to rise up on his or her own two feet. Maybe this is why we never hear much about the mothers of geniuses like Albert Einstein or Pablo Picasso. Chances are they were just average women who heard the doors slam as their boys dashed out to play in the streets, and then turned and went about their own days. And will anyone deny that they were Good Enough Moms?
So let yourself feel some pride that your child made it through infancy without your having driven off leaving her in a baby seat on the hood of your car. Grant yourself a Mother of the Year award for stopping your toddlers from eating that third or fourth fistful of playground sand. When your teenager’s heart gets broken for the first time, feel free to just smile, shrug and offer the old cliché, “Now, now, there’s more fish in the sea, Dear!” That, too, is being a Good Enough Mom.
When my own boys were still quite small I had what I like to call a “Mom’s Spaghetti Zen” moment. They were sitting at the table side by side, each slurping and swallowing loudly over a heaping plate of messy noodles and Ragu. I stood at the counter and was immediately so stricken by this single tender moment, I had to look away to recover from my crashing emotions of gratitude and joy. All was right in the world. Even better: My world was good enough.
I can’t wait to become a grandparent one day, so when my own granddaughter or grandson succumbs to that first tantrum and screams, “I HATE YOU!” I, too, then respond calmly and surely — as any woman can who’s survived the onslaught of Good Enough Motherhood — “I’ve been hated by better than you!”
And right now in closing, let me gladly shout, both to you and myself: “HAPPY GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER’S DAY!!!”