Sunday, May 8, 2011

All we can do is our best

Today is Mother’s Day. I woke up this morning to my daughter’s sweet voice, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy.” No doubt I am truly blessed to be a mother. It’s a role I wasn’t sure would ever happen for me. But once I was able to have my children, the inevitable thought of “am I going to be a good mother?” began to sink in.

Mom and me Christmas morning 1980

I think as parents we always strive to be better than our parents. I know my parents are better at parenting than their parents and I feel I am better than my parents. I know that’s a bold statement to make but I’m sure my mom would be the first to agree with that sentiment.

As bad as my life has been, I truly believe my mom had it much worse as a child than I could ever imagine. I’m amazed at the fact that she was somehow able to raise us 4 kids and keep her own marriage together.

My mom was the youngest of 9 children and grew up on a farm in rural North Carolina. It’s obvious that seeking the spotlight was a role she starting fine tuning at an early age.

My mom’s free-spirit nature boggled my Southern Baptist grandmother. My mom loved to sing, dance, and paint pictures—my grandmother didn’t understand these things.

But like every good Southern girl, she married her high school sweetheart when she was just 18. They had my sister and I and the marriage ended in divorce after my mom caught him cheating when I was just a few months old.

Mom the dance teacher 1988

Separated from her family in NC, mom stayed in Texas and met my dad, the artist, and they were married a few days before my 1st birthday.  They settled in Dublin, TX and added 2 more boys to the mix. They still live in my childhood home and they have had the same phone number for over 30 years. 

When I was a baby, Mom always waited tables—I’m sure her beauty brought in a lot of tip money. Then Mom taught yoga and did some part-time secretarial work here and there while we were little. When I was in first grade, Mom opened a dance studio in our house.

A few years later, she moved the business out of the house and opened a dance studio down the street and then a second location in the next town over. Her dance business is still going today and she’s been able to turn that little side business into quite a lucrative project.

Mom and I were always very close. I shared her love for dance and I was always that quirky kid with the weird clothes and big ideas. I was the only other person who loved hanging out the in the dance studio more than her—I loved turning up the music and watching my reflection in the big mirrors as I spun around for hours. In high school, she offered me part ownership of the studio and it became Kim and Wanda’s School of Dance. I worked with her until I graduated from college.
Dad, Me, Amy, Mom, David in Texas 1979.

Mom was one of those cool moms that bought me a beer when we went out to eat on my 16th birthday. I could make a very vulgar and sexually inappropriate joke to her and she would laugh so hard she would have tears running down her face. And when we went out, she always got hit on more than me.

Her creativity always paid off and she taught me how to make a dollar last longer. She helped me put together quite a classy wedding for $600. She was there the day both of my kids were born. And she was on the phone with me for hours when I found out my husband was cheating on me.

“Baby, if it helps, I know exactly how you feel,” she would say. And I felt horrible because at that moment I realized that she did know how I felt and I never acknowledged that before. I never acknowledged the fact that she was able to keep everything together after she was left alone in Texas. I never acknowledged how hard it must of have been on her to raise us 4 kids on a dance teacher’s salary--always hopeful my dad would sell a painting. I never acknowledged how living with a manic depressive like my dad would make being a good mommy so much harder.

I spoke to Mom on the phone this week and she told me that, “The only way to be a good mother is to just accept the fact that we all fail on some level as mothers. I know I wasn’t a great mother, but I also know that I tried my best.”

She’s right, too. She did do her best. I am grateful to my mom—I would never be the person I am today if it wasn’t for her.

Mom the Grandmother 2010

 When I told her I was going back to school to give this writing thing a shot she said, “I know I really did a lot of things to mess you guys up when you were growing up and you have my permission to write anything about me you want.”

That’s a huge gift to any writer. It’s a gift her mother should have given her but never did.

So, thank you Mom for raising me with love and for loving me enough to put your own fears aside and allowing me the chance to write from my heart. I don’t know anyone who has been given that gift. I love you.
Happy Mother’s Day,

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