My Role as a Mother

img_3358For the past 18 years, I’ve straddled the hard and fine line of motherhood. I’ve guessed and second-guessed each and every decision because, unlike other relationships, you never really know if you did the “right” thing until years later.

Swim team is a perfect example. In 2008, my oldest daughter, Kesi almost drowned. She was nine. Consequently, we decided she should learn to swim. A few lessons later, she joined the swim team. I thought they’d be swimming once a day and training for light competition. Turns out they had two-a-days all summer, with weekly competitions, and a culminating all-state competition at the end of August.

“This is going to be a lot of work,” I announced after day one. “Do you think you can do it?”

Her raspy voice whispered from the backseat “Yeah. Do you think I can do it?”

That’s one of those think on your feet parenting kind of moments. And being myself, there was only one answer.

“Of course Kase! You can do anything you set your mind to.”

And she did. She worked her ass off training twice a day. She went from being the slowest, only African-American little girl swimmer in that pool, to having an amazing backstroke at the end of the summer competition.

So I did what we do here in the States. I signed her up to “train” during the fall and winter. Surely, if she worked through the winter months, she’d be even more awesome for the following summer.

By May of the following year, she quit. She was tired. She didn’t want to do it anymore.

Because Dwight and I firmly believe in not making children do what they don’t want to do, we allowed her to.

And I’ve always wondered if I should’ve made her do it. Have I lived up to my role as her mother? Was I supposed to teach her work ethic by making her swim? Was I supposed to give her some speech about not giving up just because you don’t feel like it?

Years later, will she tell her therapist that she wished her mother would’ve pushed her harder? Will her whole life hinge on if I made her pursue swim team a second year?

Eventually, I always come to the same conclusion. I…don’t…know. Parenting is a careful dance of allowing your child to be his or herself, while still being yourself. To do that, you have to know who that is. My role is to guide her. I’m here to show her how to stand confident in making decisions that are aligned with how she feels. I’m here to tell her that it’s okay to change her mind about something, even if she’s knee-deep in it and doesn’t see a way out. Like my Grannie says, “If you made your bed hard, then get out the bed.”

Today, my daughter is an 18 year-old senior on the cusp of high school graduation. Three years ago, she intended to complete a Cosmetology license at a trade school so that she could fulfill her then dream of doing hair. At that time, I felt just like I did when I watched her competing in that backstroke.

“That your daughter?” a passerby asked.

“Yep,” my husband and I proudly replied.

Just like swimming, somewhere along her path, she decided doing hair wasn’t for her. She changed her mind, and consequently changed the direction of her life. Now, she wants to go to college to be a Cosmetic Chemist.

Although she hasn’t asked, the question still floats in the air, “Do you think I can do it?”

My answer is the same, “Of course Kase! You can do anything you set your mind to.”

img_1006And I hope she believes it. Because for me, that’s what mothering is all about. It’s parenting the person I see before me. It’s parenting an individual, not an identity. My daughter isn’t me. She’s her own person with her own experiences. In my mind, being a mother is helping her cultivate her self and her dreams, no matter how many times that changes.

On this Mother’s Day, I’d like to remind everyone that mothering looks as different as we do. Subsequently, I’m sure we’re all doing the best that we can in each moment. What do you think? How do you see motherhood? How do you think your mother saw her role?

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78 thoughts on “My Role as a Mother

  1. Love this. And the I don’t know is real. ALSO, I didn’t know our daughters were the same ages/graduating at the same time. PLUS ALSO, I love that she knows she loves makeup and wants to get in on development.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Akilah! It’s sooo very real lol I think I realized it when you mentioned her going off to college, but I don’t remember if it was in person or something you’d blogged about. Yes, yes…at least she knows what ballpark she wants to be in; that’s a start 😉

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  2. I really love your posting Kathy, it rings so warm and true and I love your relationship with your daughter.
    How to be a mother is no science one can learn in books, it is to be there, intuitive and with love and encouragement. Faith in your children and their dreams.

    I have a son and a daughter and honestly feel amazed at the strong and loving people they turned out to be. All other achievements in my life pale compared to the joy and pride of them.
    miriam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Miriam! I agree about this being a non-scientific role. It is kind of like faith in action, right? Happy Mother’s Day to you! It’s great that you adore your children and their personalities above all else 🙂

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  3. I hope you had a Mother’s Day as amazing as this post is 🙂 So often, we think we’re expected to know everything as mothers when one of the greatest lessons you can teach a child is that none of us are infinite founts of knowledge. Our lives are enriched by learning from others and sharing experiences. By showing our children that we are doing our best in any given circumstance then every “failure” is an opportunity to shape future success & achievement in the true sense of what that means to us as individuals. Each mother-child relationship is beautifully unique 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Letisha! It was very nice. I totally agree about showing children that you do not know everything. Sometimes it’s okay to say, “I don’t know, but let’s figure it out!” or “That didn’t work. What can we try now?”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Today it’s mothers day in the Netherlands and I always reflect on my relationship with my own mother at this day; the reason why we don’t connect anymore and if that still feels right. I also reflect on the decision not becoming a mother my self; still feels right too.
    Reading your post reminds me of the huge responsibility you take upon, as soon as you decide to be a parent. It is indeed finding that balance between protecting and supporting. Allowing children to make their own faults, but also teaching them about consequences of the choices they make. I also feel you’re doing just fine; since, the best you can do, is all you can do…right?
    XxX

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    1. That sounds like a beautiful practice for all relationships. I especially like the “if that still feels right” because sometimes we make decisions, but we change or the person changes, and we realize it’s time to do something different.

      The last part is absolutely the truth Patty. The best we can do in each moment is all we can do, so it has to be just fine.

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  5. Day in and day out it’s about “I…don’t…know” isn’t it? I wish I could say, “Oh, Kathy, I feel so much better knowing that you have nine more years of mothering experience than me and you still don’t know.” Instead I’m cradling my head in my hands going, really? Even when she’s 18 I won’t know if we made the right decisions? Well, crap. As I’ve mentioned in my own writings, my mothering strategy is to sit on my hands and let her live her life. When she falls, I’ll get off my hands and brush her off, give her a hug and bandage her wounds, but her life is not for me to live for her. That said, I wonder if she needs more of a helping hand or pat on the back from time to time. In the infinite words of some blogger I know, “I…don’t…know. “

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  6. That was beautiful. I like that you said mothering looks as different as we do. Which is why every mother parents differently. You don’t get a manual with a child like a car, right? So, every mother is different. Growing up, my mother was all about education. Just like you said, you just don’t know if it’s the right decision until years later. Thanks, Madré. It’s a beautiful thing, I tell you! A beautiful thing.😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Cherie! That’s exactly why it all looks different, because we all are different. And no ma’am…no manual = winging it most of the time or doing what you saw as a child, or not lol I’d say your tu madre did an excellent job! Hope she had a great Mother’s Day, but knowing you’re her daughter, I’d guess she did 😉

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  7. For the record, I think your daughter proved whatever she needed to prove to herself in order to release herself from competitive swimming 😉.

    I’ll share the first 2 things that sprung to mind while reading your post. (1) When we were kids I fell in love with dancing and my sister fell in love with swimming. But when my mother started revving up behind the idea of turning my sister into an Olympian, my sister told her matter-of-factly “No, Mommy – I just LIKE to swim!”

    (2) As an adult I would sometimes call my mother to thank her for some [usually tough love] lesson she taught me when I was young. “Mommy, remember when…?” and 9 times out of 10 she would be mystified (“Did I do that?”)- I guess because they were unrehearsed moments in the “dance” of parenting that you write about; times when she was just going with her gut and not following the advice or example of other parents or childrearing experts. I really admire my mother for that…NOW lol!

    Happy Mother’s Day, Kathy – I’m sure you’re doing a fine job!

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    1. I agree Leslie! Her dad is similar. To this day, one of his aunts goes on and on about how wonderful a piano player he was was NINE!!! But when you ask him about it, he says, “I’d learned all I needed to about playing the piano; I’d gone as far as I wanted to go. So I quit.” 🙂 There’s something to be said for people who know when enough is enough.

      Love your sister’s response. But I love it more that your mom gave her the space to be able to say that and leave it alone, you know?

      Girl for me the whole thing is unrehearsed lol Thanks for those encouraging words 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. God, Kathy, I am so touched and moved by this post, and the relationship you have with your daughter. The way you believe in her is SUCH A GIFT. Thank you for sharing, truly I am so touched. Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, and Light and loving to your daughter and her journey in this lifetime. 🙂 Blessings, Debbie ps – you are an amazing role model.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Debbie! Oh my, yes! I totally believe in her (and my other daughter). I’m glad this touched you in such a loving way! I had a great Mother’s Day and thanks for the encouragement for both of us. Aww thanks for calling me a role model! I appreciate it.

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  9. Beautifully written, I had the best of both worlds. There were things I wanted to do which my Mum was not encouraging of and there were things I hated doing which she forced me to continue. I have never harboured any debt or regret or disappointment in my Mum. Every decision she ever made, was with the best interest at hear. At 31, my Mum is absolutely my best friend :). You’re doing great!

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  10. You got the mothering thing right Kathy. First and foremost because you ask yourself questions and reflect on things. Kesi is one lucky young lady. I’m only 3 years into being a mum and find it equal parts the best thing ever and the hardest, most challenging role…but I’m working on it and learning about myself in the process. As for my mum- being a mum myself has made me wonder about her inability to love because it feels so natural gor ne to love my boy, but I can appreciate she was almost 20 years younger than me when she had her first child- not sure that at 20 I could have been hslf the m I am now (I’m talking about myself and my mother – no generalisation on young mums- I needed all those years to undoe the damage of my own childhood before having my own child). Happy mother’s day xx

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    1. Thanks Mek! It’s such a tough station in life, sometimes. And thanks for saying Kesi’s lucky 😉 I appreciate that. What you’ve described about your mother is how I felt about my birth mother (for a long time). I was trying to understand how anyone who’d given birth could not muster up enough strength to care for her baby. It seems like something kicks in as soon as you’re pregnant, much less after you’ve birthed a child. But, like you, I’ve discovered that we’re all different. We each have our own experiences that shape what type of person, let alone mother we’ll be. Glad you see that too 🙂 And you’re a GREAT mom too, my friend!

      Also, thanks for the disclaimer about “young” moms lol

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      1. You’re welcome, and thanks- I really want to get it right or at least do my best. Re- disclaimer- I didn’t want to offend anyone as it wasn’t a judgement – as you say we are all different and some of us have self parenting to do before undertaking parenting, but then others rise up to the role regardless, and some flounder. I remember even at a young age sensing that my mother felt tied down and resentful of not being able to ‘live’ her life. A shame for her that she didn’t embrace it as one of many ways to live life.

        On another note, thanks for sharing another granny gem 😂. You need to start a granny says blog feature, or maybe interview her? Please!!!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. lol Dwight and I call them grannyisms lol

        I totally understand about the disclaimer. It was just funny to me because I know that sometimes one can take offense (I didn’t), but I know it happens.

        Also, your mom sounds like the character’s mother in the book we read…we can discuss that in a less public forum though…I’m not near my phone right now.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I didn’t think you’d take offence, but didn’t want to offend any readers as I could see it could have been misinterpreted. Granyisms haha. Can discuss here or wherever. After saying before that the mother in Swing Time was all about self improvement (which I view positively) and my mother was escape (to which i was assigning a negstive connotation), I realised how unfair that was. Not fullfilling motherhood obligations for education is no more noble thsn any other reason. I think my mum just wanted to have a social life and fun and no cares. She eventually found an ‘acceptable’ outlet for that through religion snd the constant socisl interactions coming out of connections in her church circle, often at the expense of spending time with her non- church going children and husband.

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  11. I smiled when I read your question about letting your daughter quit the swim team. I wanted to say, “of course you did the right thing! This is childhood, a time to explore and learn what you want to do! She didn’t quit until she’d succeeded!” and blah blah blah. But the bottom line is, your daughter will be the final judge of whether or not you did the right thing. You made a thoughtful parenting decision. Likely you’ll have to live through years of hearing everything you did wrong, but I believe, long-term, she’ll say, “thank you for loving me, and basing your decisions on love.” And by the way, what a beautiful young woman she is. Sounds like she’s got it going, inside and out. Happy Mother’s Day!!

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    1. I just realized how presumptive it was of me to say “likely you’ll have to live through years of hearing everything you did wrong.” it’s so common in today’s culture, but not every child goes through that. My apologies!!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. 🙂 Thanks Belinda! And see that’s the thing, right? I think this is LIFE; that’s what we’re all supposed to be doing, so that’s kinda how my hubby and I parent. Do whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as it’s what YOU want to do.

      You’re absolutely right about her being the judge. And like I’ve said in the other answer, I know that no matter what, for some reason, it all comes back to me, good or bad, and for some reason that’s funny to me lol In fact, I’ve been going back and forth with the concept of blaming one’s parents. Children come here with personalities, but it always baffles me when parents don’t take some responsibility in the outcome of their children (hope this doesn’t sound harsh). I mean you are around the person for nearly two decades, so you had to have some influence, right? I figure it’s about 1/2 their personality and 1/2 your raising. Anwho, I feel myself rambling…I hope you get my point.

      Thanks for those compliments! She is beautiful inside and out and amazing just as she is 🙂

      Thanks for the holiday wishes!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My mom is 61 and is just now coming out of her dream killer lifestyle. I am/was always the quirky kid who got bored easily and chose happiness over money from jobs I hated. She just wanted me to work at the post office or be a teacher, regardless of my dreams. When she visited New Orleans this last weekend, I asked her to stop by to see a baker I admire, another mom who raised seven kids. I happened to call to check on my mom and her friend and they were there in the shop and I got to speak with Migñon, the owner of The Cupcake Collection, and she said “I talked to your mom and there will be no more of that negative talk about your business!” She said her mom was critical of her starting something for herself as well, but now her mom is her manger!

    I have just been assuming you’re an amazing mom, but from this: that’s what mothering is all about. It’s parenting the person I see before me. It’s parenting an individual, not an identity. My daughter isn’t me. She’s her own person with her own experiences. In my mind, being a mother is helping her cultivate her self and her dreams, no matter how many times that changes… I wholeheartedly believe it. This mindset should be a requirement when you even fathom parenthood.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. NOOOO say it ain’t so! She was a “dream killer”? I hope I don’t sound like I’m defending her, but I’m sure she had her reasons, which probably had something to do with her background or fear. I’ve learned that most people kill dreams out of fear.

      That’s an amazing story about the owner of the bakery! I love stories like that. What are the odds that she would’ve even been present right at that moment when your mom was there in the shop? Serendipity, indeed. I’m so glad she was able to have a conversation that helped shift her perspective a little bit.

      HA! About assuming I’m an amazing mom, but I’ll take that. I’m glad you enjoyed these words. You know they come straight from my heart to the keyboard ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yea.. she was one of those. I know now that it was because she thought I’d have job security, but really, even the best jobs were not secure shortly after I’d entered the workforce. She wanted me to make the same choices as she did as a young adult. But, nah..

        Their encounter was no doubt serendipitous! It made my year! Now I have to meet her.

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  13. Mothering is definitely a balancing act and looks different for us all. Adhering to the basics grounds us as much as our children.

    Even though I still believe I’m allergic to “teenagers”, I got through those years with only a few battle scars and thousands of PTA miles because we were involved and kept our three involved. I love my “mom” collection of t-shirts and hoodies from orchestra, band, drama club and OMG – field day! (They tried to kill me, I’m sure of it! 😄 )

    Now – if they would just give me grandchildren! 😉

    Happy Mother’s Day!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for stopping by Felicia! How did you get over your allergies??? lol Sounds like you were a real active mother (who enjoyed every minute)!

      I hear rearing grandchildren is a muuuuch easier job filled with loads of gratitude 😉

      Hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day filled with everything you love.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Honest thoughts on mothering, Kathy. I gave all I had as a mother. I made lots of mistakes, but I never abandoned my sons when the going was tough, and raised them to adulthood. What more could any child ask of their mother?

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    1. Thanks Rosaliene! I know you understand, and yes, I think we all do the absolute best we can and that looks as different as we are. I agree. What more could any child ask for? Hope you have a Happy Mother’s Day my blogging friend 🙂

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      1. This makes me laugh, because I intentionally got a chemical engineering degree instead of a chemistry degree because I didn’t want to spend my life making shampoo and toothpaste. However, as an older avid user of both shampoo and toothpaste let me thank your daughter for her worthy goals!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I keep forgetting you’re an engineer! I don’t know why, but anywho…we’d never even heard of it until she began mixing stuff in the kitchen, and then we had to look it up, like this must be a career or something lol I shall thank her in advance.

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  15. What an honest and eloquent post you have written! I have felt that way so many times while raising my children. I think you summed it up with your statement about allowing our child to cultivate his or her own life choices. When a parent pushes, I believe that can backfire. Offering gentle support, encouragement and love allows our child to fly. My goal as a mom is for my children to be independent – all three of my children have had major challenges to that. I celebrate their success and know that sometimes it so hard to know if what I’m doing is the “right thing.” But with love, it seems to work out. Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Judy! It can be challenging for sure. Trying to raise independent children is such a fine line. You have to know when you’re creating dependence and interdependence, as opposed to independence. It’s all so much lol Happy Mother’s Day to you!

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  16. This is beautiful K E. I raise my children the same way. I have one who is an over-achiever, and very goal oriented. He knew he wanted to be a social studies teacher at age 12 and is a happy high school social studies teacher for the past 8 years. He wanted his Masters and Edspec and went for it, wanted to be a martial artist…you get the picture.
    My other child is the polar opposite. She is a go with the flow person, who knew she wanted to wait to go to school, so she could travel. She traveled, she took risks, and did go back to school and is now preparing to graduate and go on to law school. Maybe? She has changed her mind about what she would like to study many, many times and because I know it’s her personality, I just go with it.
    Like you, we raised our kids that they can do it, we believe in them. We also raised them that our nest is always feathered and if they need to fly back for a soft-landing to breathe, get balanced and prepare to fly again, the door is always open.
    Have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. lol at “maybe.” I completely understand this. I too have polar opposite children. That’s why I have to write about them one at a time, so as to avoid comparison (that’s also been a mother challenge as well). Anywho, your feathered-nest analogy is so calm and inviting. Thanks for the well-wishes and Happy Mother’s Day to you too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. You’re absolutely right- As moms, we do the best we can in any given situation. But we’re going to make mistakes along the way. It’s inevitable. Live and learn, and keep giving it out best, right?

    Happy Mother’s Day! 🌺🌼🌸

    Liked by 2 people

    1. …as long as we can keep reminding one another of that, then I think we’ll be okay 😉 And absolutely, about living and learning, and then doing your best (with this and everything). Thanks for the well wishes and HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to you too!

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