When we were little, my mom made a chores mix tape and to this day, I distinctly remember all the songs that were on it. It had Huey Lewis and Bruce Springsteen and a dozen or so others that she would blast throughout the house while we danced, sang, and cleaned. Each week, my brother and I looked forward to and even enjoyed doing chores with our mom. Because she made it fun. She smiled and laughed and made it a game, so we smiled and laughed and played along. Before you knew it, the house was clean and we found ourselves wishing we had been a little messier that week or had left a few more toys on the floor so we could keep the chore party going a little longer.
She made (and still makes) everything fun. If things didn’t go as planned, she rolled with it. If my parents were stressed or money was tight, I never knew.
Now that I’m a mother, I have no idea how she did it. So often I find myself in a frustrating situation, whether it’s a screaming baby at 3am or dinnertime with no food in the fridge, and I ask myself, “What would my mother do?” Sometimes I know the answer. I turn on some Disney music and softly sing my infant to sleep, even though I can barely open my eyes or move my feet. Or I MacGyver a meal out of remnants found in the cupboards and freezer and somehow it tastes delicious.
And then sometimes I know what she’d do and I just can’t. Those are the most frustrating times and the times when I’m the most disappointed in myself as a mother.
I know my mom wouldn’t flip out when the baby misses all his naps and I’m in for a rough night ahead. She’d shake it off, take it in stride, and remember that it is only one bad day and will soon be behind her. I know she’d do that. I know I should do that. But sometimes, I just can’t. I flip out.
And then after I flip out, I beat myself up internally because I so wish I could get this right and sometimes I feel like I just can’t. I’m too rigid. I need things to be just so. I’m not flexible enough when things don’t go as planned, and I plan until there’s no room for improvising.
My mom (and dad, too! but this post is about mom) created an environment where a kid could be a kid, make mistakes, try new things without fear, have adventures, and be happy. I want to do the same for my son. So badly. And yet, try as I might, I am not my mom and although I may know what she’d do, sometimes I don’t do it. But I want to.