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How Mothers Do It

May 11, 2014

Our kids have finally worn Mrs. Fussy down, or maybe she has simply forgotten the travails of eating breakfast in bed. Regardless, I’ll be helping them prepare a thankfully simple morning repast that we’ll bring to her bedchamber.

All Mrs. Fussy wanted was nutty granola with some special yogurt and some frozen raspberries. Thankfully Whole Foods was open late last night so that I could get the necessary ingredients. If you want a staggering variety of high quality yogurt and granola to choose from, it’s really the only game in town. Although in Albany, I’m sure the Honest Weight Food Co-op would give them a run for the money. Still, I was amazed at how reasonably priced these staple items were at Whole Foods, but that’s a post for another time.

You may have noticed from the paragraph above, that I went shopping for Mother’s Day breakfast just last night. Like many human beings, I have the terrible habit of putting things off to the very last minute.

That’s the main reason my own mother isn’t getting flowers or any other sweet or thoughtful gift delivered to her door today.

So instead, just like my kids are doing for their mom, I’m making a card of sorts (this post is made with my own hands and will have to do). My mom may also get the better deal today because she won’t be subjected to an after breakfast scavenger hunt to find the craft projects hidden throughout the house.

Be forewarned, what follows has precious little to do with food.

Parents have an impossible job. This has only revealed itself to me after having kids of my own. Just a moment ago, I mentioned one of my terrible habits. Procrastination. It’s nothing new. I’ve had it my entire life. I clearly remember having homework projects over vacations that must have put a damper on what should have been everyone’s relaxing holiday.

In elementary school there was the time we went to Disney World when I had to write a piece of fiction, in chapters. And then there was another trip to the Florida Keys when I was doing that report on Dolphins. The funny thing is that I always got high marks on these projects, which I always completed on my own, without any meddling from Mom.

And it must have been difficult to watch me complete other projects under the gun. I recall the middle school science fair project where I was up into the wee hours of the morning trying to get the lettering perfect. I was using some rub-off letters, and the process was much much slower than I had ever dreamed possible. But my mom stayed supportive and the final result was met with rave reviews.

Even in college I remember calling up my mom the night before a paper was due on a book that I had yet to read. Reading it and writing a paper on the book were a literal impossibility based on the hours between the phone call and the time it had to be turned in. After talking me off the edge, I found some way to write a remarkably decent paper on a book that I quickly skimmed.

All of these events involved tears. My tears, really. Mom was always remarkably calm. At least she was on the outside.

When you are a parent, there is a strong temptation to try and fix your kids. I say this as a parent with great kids who aren’t broken, but in some ways I feel could benefit from some parental intervention. I mean, who couldn’t?

My mom could have tried to instill within me an ethic of working first and playing later. And it could have saved her from a lot of aggravation.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes this procrastination thing causes me problems. But most of the time it has to do with sending presents and other social situations like responding to invitations. But I like the way that I work. I enjoy the peace and quiet of being with my thoughts late at night without the disruptions that occur when other people are still awake. And I have an exceptional track record of producing great work in the 11th hour.

Would trying to intervene at an early age resulted in any positive change? Or would it simply have been a source of conflict?

People take all kinds of forms. Sometimes as a parent, your kids can seem completely alien to you. Sometimes as a kid, you find it impossible to believe that you came from the combined DNA of your parents.

How as a parent do you decide when to let your children become whatever they are inside, and when do you choose to try and put them on a better path if they are veering away from their own best selves? After all, we as a species are so remarkably adaptable and malleable.

I simply don’t know how mothers do it.

Today my mom and I are two very different people. It’s not because we are estranged. We’ve always disagreed on a variety of subjects, and I’ve never been shy about expressing my opposing opinions. In fact, I generally enjoy those contentious conversations where I try to win her over to my side of thinking.

There are some things I’ve just never been able to do. I was never able to stick to piano lessons and accompany her on the flute. And I’ve never (or almost never) been able to get her a real present on time for any momentous life event.

I love my mom a lot. And I appreciate not only the things she has done for me over the years, but also all of the things she hasn’t done for me as well. Like everyone, I’m a flawed human being. Unlike most people, I generally tend to delight in them. But I’m glad the my mom has always loved me, flaws and all.

Love,
Daniel

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