Sunday, May 11, 2014
I like to sing. I'm not good at it, but I like to do it anyway. My repertoire pretty much consists of church songs and show tunes. This morning when I woke up, I didn't awaken singing. Instead, I woke thinking about the refrains of motherhood.
Like the refrain of a song -- "Let it go! Let it go! -- the refrains of motherhood are those things I find myself repeating over and over again, day after day, year after year.
As I thought about them, I identified seven refrains of motherhood.
Don't touch. This is one of the things we tell our children from their very young years. Don't touch...the things lining the shelves in the store, the hot stove, my Diet Coke. As our kids get to their teen years, "don't touch" takes on a whole new meaning...drugs, alcohol, and again, my Diet Coke.
Be careful. These words of caution start out as physical admonitions, encouraging our kids to be careful when crossing the street, climbing a tree or jungle gym, swinging a baseball bat for the first time. Slowly, they morph into words that are meant to guide our loves to make wise choices for themselves, to protect their hearts and souls. And when they set out, car keys and shiny new driver's license in hand, for that first solo drive, "be careful" again carries it's most basic and urgent message, the one that says "please come back to me in one piece."
Great job. One of my favorite parts of being a mom is the feeling of that heartswell when one of my kids does something good. It was a swell I felt at their first steps, the first time they rode a two-wheeler by themselves. Even better is the joy we feel when we see them include someone who is sitting alone or give up something important to them for the benefit of someone who needs it more. As parents we don't keep that swell within. We rush to our kids, wrap our arms around them, and tell them "Great job!" Sometimes we use different words, but truly, the refrain is same. Great job, indeed.
Do it now. This is one of the exasperated refrains of motherhood. Nothing is so maddening as having to repeat myself several times, waiting for one child or another to move on a request I've made or a directive I've given. Old family folklore has it that my mother-in-law used to reach the end of her rope, particularly when stalling about homework was involved, and shout in a maniacal voice, "Do it now! Do it now! Do it now!" I may have sputtered the same words once. Maybe twice.
Be nice. It's really one of the most basic things about being human. Be nice to others. Treat them as you wish to be treat. When our children are little and are greeting a new sibling or are playing alongside another child, we often gently tell them "Be nice." As they get older, the direction can sometimes be more complex, even harder to follow. "Be nice" to people who rub you the wrong way. "Be nice" to the mean girls in the school cafeteria. "Be nice" to the kids who other kids might make fun of you for being nice to. "Be nice" to the one who broke your heart. "Be nice" to the teacher who you think is mean. "Be nice" to yourself.
Go ahead. Our jobs as mothers, as parents, is to hold our children's hands while they are little...and sometimes when they are big. At some point, though, we let go, nudge them forward and tell them "go ahead." We say it as they take their first teetering steps, as they push off for the first time with no training wheels. We say it as they get on the school bus or they stand in front of the class to share their project. When our children are reluctant or fearful, we might want to swallow those words, to save them for a better time. Yes, sometimes "go ahead" are two of the scariest words we can think to say, but we know they are words of love. As the mother of new driver and a child just a blink away from college, I know the loving terror and joy of this refrain.
I love you. All the other refrains of motherhood are really just alternate ways of singing this one. If the only refrain my children remember is "I love you," I will have done my job.
What are other refrains of motherhood do you find yourself singing?