My mom rocks. She is smart, funny and kind. She laughs at my jokes while chiding me for being mildly inappropriate. We are both in on the joke: I am only mildly inappropriate to make her laugh. She has the best laugh. Most people don’t know she has a wicked sense of humor. Her nickname is Mike, because her father wanted a fistborn son, but got her instead. Try explaining to your friends why your cousins call her Aunt Mike.
I learned a long time ago that few women are as blessed to have a strong and mutual friendship and a respect with their mothers. I hit the jackpot, though, because I got my mom, plus two other mothers.
When my grandfather died, and my mother was in throes of an ache I could not fathom, Carla was there. As my mom took care of her mother and her family and funeral arrangements and her own massive grief, Carla took my irksome adolescent self to the mall. She walked from store to store with me, listening to my constant grumbling. She held my hand at his viewing. She listened to me talk about stupid teenaged stuff. She loved my mom, and she loved me. Carla was a single mother raising here own kids, but she always had time for me.
Martha played the organ at church. One Sunday, I appeared in the hallway behind the pulpit, ready to rehearse a flute piece I was to play with her that day. But something was wrong. I was angry, and seething tears of frustration flowed down my face. I would not be ready to play in church that day. Martha, a teacher with no children of her own, took my face in her long pianist fingers and told me a truth. She told me a story about her own anger and healing. She spoke surprising words of understanding to me, and I felt, in that moment, known.
In the furor over last week’s Time* cover photo, I couldn’t help thinking of these women. My mother and her friends had little time for such nonsense. They were too busy. Instead of judging the value of another’s parenting skills, they climbed along for the ride whenever necessary.
Today, we are collateral damage in a war that is only being waged in the broadest terms, by the talkers, constantly talking about what everyone is and should be doing. These so-called mommy wars pit mother against mother in an endless battle. But for what? Nobody can win.
When we can make anything as complicated and complex as parenting a black-and-white, do-this, don’t-do-that thing, we have forgotten how big and wide and wonderful our world is. As people are unique, there is no one-size-fits-all parenting manual. It just doesn’t work like that. And I don’t want it to, either.
What would the talkers make of my other mothers? Would they judge my mother for needing the proverbial village? Would they find me lacking for being a handful of teen angst? Would they condemn Carla and Martha for being there when I needed them? I refuse to be part of this war. I’d rather be someone else’s other mother.
*I’m not linking to it. They’ve got enough attention.