I received a really nice email from another loyal reader, name of Judy, coincidentally NOT related to me, but is just about the sweetest person with one of the nicest, most sincere smiles you'll ever see. And she has a blog that is 10 times better than this one, but I'm not linking to it until she promises to make a new entry, even if it doesn't have anything to do with clutter! :-)
Anyway, with her permission, here is the email she sent me:
I've been meaning to tell you how touched I was by Reat's journal entry words you quoted in your recent blog post. (And a tip of the hat for keeping at your blog, unlike some people ... Ahem.)
You reminded me of a few sun-drenched memories of mine, talking to Reat while waiting for Emily to finish her art class with Paul. One time she told me she had been reading over her journals, and she said, "I thought, wow, I was a really good mother!" Such an enviable revelation ... especially to me ... one who is overly, overly self-critical. She was so very special.
Well, first of all, thank you for taking the time to send me that, Judy. And secondly, judging from the quality of your amazing kids, you too are "a really good mother!"
But yeah, Mom was a great mom. I guess it's safe to say that we kids saw a side of her that many didn't, and are aware of decisions she made that we like to think we might have handled differently, and, I believe, in retrospect, that she wished she had too. (As is certainly true for me as a Dad as well.) As wonderful a mom and person as she was, she did go through some tough times when she and we were much younger, but regardless, I put her in the small category of Quaker Saint from back in her era, along with people like Enid Brown, Virginia McQuail and Jane Moore. Not necessarily parent-related, except in the It Takes A Village scenario, in which case, since they certainly all helped raise me and my sibs, I think they certainly qualify.
I know Mom worked her butt off to be the best mom she could be. Funny, now that I'm a Dad, and have been for the best 18 years of my life, partly thanks to my kids, in some ways I have both more and less respect and awe for my folks. More, because I realize how incredibly hard it is, especially in terms of time and energy. But also, less, because I, like most of us, put my folks on a pedestal. A pedestal of perceived perfection (!) that though I still feel an element of for them, the idea that my kids may feel that way about me is just crazy. Whatever nice things they might think of me as a Dad, well, thanks, it means a lot, but there is so much I might have done better.
Mom was a mom during an important historical parenting transition, one I don't think has been written about much, at least that I have seen. Up until Dr. Spock (no, not this guy), the one who wrote THE book on parenting in 1946 which was a bible to post-war moms. But even past that, the women who were moms from the mid- to late-50's and into the 60's, when the idea of kids being seen and not heard was not only questioned, but pretty much abandoned. I don't know whether it was the moms who caused that to happen or the kids, starting around the time that Blackboard Jungle (really hitting Wikipedia hard today!) was written (another of the rare books that I actually read!...ok, it's a not a rare book, it's a book read by me, which is rare. Sorry, grammar/syntax-police.) and the movie version was filmed. (Movie note: "It is remembered for its innovative use of rock and roll in its soundtrack and for the unusual breakout role of a black Bahamian-American cast member, future Oscar winner and star Sidney Poitier as a rebellious, yet musically talented student.") Awesome book, awesome movie!
I remember a time in the late 60's/early 70's when Mom became really, really into reading up on all kinds of new parenting and education-related techniques. The book Open Classroom was especially important to her - not geared toward parenting, per se, but I know it had an impact anyway.
I guess that's all I wanted to share for now, when I think of Mom as a mom. I guess the nicest thing, of many, that I could say about her as a mom, or more importantly maybe, as a person, was that after she died, my sisters and I decided going forward, without her as a person to help us with our day-to-day challenges, we would approach each such challenge based on WWMD: What would Mom Do. And that mindset has rarely, if ever, failed me...when I've remembered to use it.
All that said, the two things I always try to come back to related to parenting are:
1 - I believe that we play way less of a role in our kids development than we think we do, and...
2 - As our wise friend, Wanda, who lives in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands once said; "We're all doing the best we can." Amen, Wanda.
And thanks again, Judy.