A Guest Post by C.A. Kendrick
“No,” I repeat, using my best I’m-in-charge voice as I stare into the defiant face of my three year old son. “Absolutely not.”
He glares. I struggle to keep from smiling when he starts growling at me. “I don’t like you, Mommy!” he declares as he stomps from the room.
Fifteen minutes later we’re snuggling on the couch reading books together. Devoid of any self-consciousness – as only small children are – he throws his arms around my neck and says, “You’re my favorite mommy in the whole world!” Kisses are exchanged.
I’m amazed how my son’s perspective of me changes; not just in day to day life, but also as he grows over the years. First I was the warm body, the provider of sustenance, the changer of diapers, the kisser of baby toes. Then I became the evil enforcer of rules, along with the player of games and the reader of books. I can only imagine how he’ll view me as he grows from toddler to little boy, to bigger boy, to teenager, and finally adult.
As I think of these things, I examine my perspective of my own mother. Becoming a mother myself put in stark relief everything engraved in my memory about her. I say engraved because those memories are not influenced by her physical presence anymore. My mom passed away when I was 19. She was very sick and, as anyone who has lost someone to illness knows, her passing stirred up a mixture of relief her pain had ended but deep sadness she was gone before I was ready to let her go.
For the longest time, my perceptions of my mother were frozen in my young adult head. This is how she was. This is what she was like. These impressions only began to break loose when my own children arrived. And as I travel further down the road of parenthood, my frozen perceptions of her continue to thaw.
Yes, she was as I remembered her as my mother, but that’s not all she was. She was also a daughter, a friend, a lover. She was an individual with dreams for me and dreams completely unrelated to me. How odd was that first initial shift of viewing my mother not just as my mom, but as a person with a rich life before I came along and a continuing life (parts of which were entirely unconnected to me) after I was here!
As I gradually emerged from the fog brought on by having an infant, I became more and more impressed with her. Being a mom is hard. Ask any mom. I only had a toddler and an infant, but at this point in my mom’s life she had a toddler, an infant, and me on the way. How did she do it? I had never wanted to talk to her more or understand her better. Such feelings would be unbearable if this were the end of her story.
But as I grow and my kids grow, I realize that though my mother is no longer physically with me in my space and time, she has left part of herself here with me. She had taken the time when I was a child to invest herself in me. Years of daily interaction, of lessons learned explicitly by her conversation or just by watching her live her life according to her values influence me to this day. She was intentional with her life and part of that was giving me the tools she felt were valuable to not just living, but living abundantly.
She was intentional in teaching me about kindness, gentleness, and patience towards others. Not only that, she also practiced these very qualities in her daily life. I didn’t realize then as I do now how rare a quality this is and how blessed I was to have such a mother. I aspire to repeat this powerful example for my own kids. Some days I succeed and some days I fail. I’m sure my mother must have had the same experience. It gives me hope for my own children when I realize that I remember my mother’s successes far more than her failures. Perhaps they will remember me that way too.
When difficult situations arise as they inevitably do, I still would give anything to be able to talk with my mom about them. Even so, I feel I intuitively know what her opinions would be and how she would advise me to act. The very best part of it all – the part that makes me smile through the tears – is I now get to invest myself in my children. And because her legacy is still in me, it will get passed on to them.