Sunday, July 31, 2016

Tales of the Bad News Mom

I wasn’t really prepared for this.

Not that I was prepared for ANY of it. As I’ve said numerous time, I never thought I’d get married, let alone have kids. So my learning curve in both of those areas might have been “curvier” than most.

That said, I’d like to think I kind of rocked the whole mom thing, as best I could rock it, anyway, given my general maternal ignorance, lack of rocking my marriage and a plethora of my own issues that seemed to make being what I wanted to be that much more difficult.

It was kind of like I was the Bad News Bears of mothering. You know, the baseball team made up of total misfits with good intentions but absolutely no idea what they’re doing who come together in the end and win the big game? Yeah, that’s me, except we’re like in the gazillionth inning and I am not seeing a W in sight.

That said, I’m kind of at that stage where I’m wondering if all that training and conditioning and sacrifice all those years was really worth it? To take the analogy one step further: If the Bad News Bears did everything they could and STILL lost the game, would everything they did really even matter?

Now I know your first instinct is to say, “Of course!” if nothing else just to make me feel better. But I’m honestly not sure. Now, I don’t say this to play the martyr card at ALL, and if I had it to do all over again, I would have done a good portion of it the same way. BUT, looking back, I really, really stressed about what I did and didn’t do for my kids and around my kids. I took them into consideration in pretty much every move I made. For instance:

— I want them to have a head start in kindergarten so we’re going to work on colors and shapes and numbers beforehand.
— I refuse to use the TV as a babysitter so I’m going to limit their screen time.
— I need to make sure any serious adult discussions don’t take place around them so they aren’t privy to things that are too old for their young minds to comprehend.
— I need to feed them nutritious food so they’re healthy (and so I don’t have to completely lie when we go to the pediatrician and he asks how many servings of fruit and veggies they get each day).
— I  need to go to church and step up my God game because I want them to know Him.
— I will read to them every night as long as they want me to, and maybe even longer.
— I’ll find a job with a flexible schedule because their dad doesn’t have a normal schedule and I want to make sure someone is always there for them after school and at all their sporting  and school events.
— I will be the mom that will always say “yes” to shooting some baskets, throwing the football or fishing.
— I will have “the talk” with them even though it’s totally uncomfortable and I’m not sure it’s a mom thing to do but I can’t NOT have the talk with them.
— I will not talk badly about their dad in front of them and I will encourage their relationship with them, even if it means us all spending every Christmas morning together because that’s how they like it.
— I’ll make sure they are gentlemen by insisting they open the door for someone and always look people in the eye and say please and thank you to the waitresses.
— I’ll talk to them about girls and how the nice guy doesn’t finish last and being a gentleman is far better than being a showoff.
— I’m certainly not going to introduce them to anyone I date unless we are serious, and if for some reason they don’t like him or get along with his kids, I will choose my kids over him.
— I'm going to make them aware of the importance of doing well in school, learning good study habits and staying motivated.
— They will volunteer because once they’re 16 and can get a paying job, they’ll have something to put on their resume and be way ahead of all the other 16 year olds.
— I’ll be frugal with my money and teach them to shop sales and that just because you want something doesn’t mean you can get it right now – or sometimes ever.
— If they are ever in a position where someone is trying to pressure them into doing something they know they shouldn’t do, they are more than welcome to use their “hardass mom” as an excuse.
— I will make sure they know they can talk to me about anything – that if they don’t know where else to turn, even though I’m “Mom”, that I will be there for them.
— I will make sure they know that they are loved, and that they are fortunate.

I look back on this not-even-exhaustive list and think, “Well, I tried all these things, that’s for sure.” How successful was I? In some areas, pretty good. In a lot of areas, not very.

But this is what I have spent the past 19 years stressing over, and here I am, 19 years later, and it’s virtually done.

It’s over.

There’s no more to teach.

Sure, mothering is never over. I know that. I needed my mom even when she lay in that hospice bed taking her last breaths. I need her even more now. My kids may not think they need me right now, but hopefully the older they get, the more they’ll feel comfortable with the fact that when all else fails, they can still come to mom.

But all the stuff I tried to do right – to raise them to be kind, productive, good people - that part’s pretty much over. And I have two questions.

1. While I feel like I was successful in a few areas, why do I feel like I failed in so many others, and
2. What the hell do I do now?

I hadn’t anticipated the immense amount of time and energy that parenting would take. I had NO idea what was entailed when I brought my firstborn home from the hospital and looked at him with complete bewilderment. I used to tell people, “If being a mother was an actual job, I would have quit a long time ago.”  I mean, that shit is TOUGH.

Maybe in time my feelings about failure will change. Sure, I could have been a much worse parent. Considering I was completely pulling the whole motherhood thing out of my ass on a daily basis, I think I did as well as I could have with what I had to work with. But I don’t think that was good enough.

And now, here I am, 19 years later, wondering what to do next. It’s kind of like working for CAT for 20 years then suddenly getting laid off. You may have known it was coming, but you just weren’t prepared to wake up one morning and not have that job to go to. And you may even be hesitant to try for a new job, because you just spent SO much time at the last one and look what happened. So you stay at home and binge watch Netflix shows and clean your house a lot and wonder what everyone else in your shoes is doing (my shoes being: single, not a ton of money, and still half-mothering a teenager, but even he’s one foot out of the nest.)

I suppose I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, I selfishly wonder what my kids think of me as a mother (and yes, I realize that at this point, they really don't think anything...). Since my oldest has moved out, he doesn’t contact me very often, if ever. If I contact him, It’s usually met with a sign or rushed conversation. And yes, I recall being his age and my mom insisting I call once a week from college. I rolled my eyes, yet I never missed that call – because even I knew I needed her, and talking to her kind of centered me. It was like there was not only one person in this world who knew what was going on with my life, it was one person who actually cared.

I hope they know I care about their lives. I hope they still need me, even if they think right now they don’t. I hope they know that I tried to do the best I could. That I really did give my all and then some for them. Now I have to turn the tables a little and give that all back to myself, which I haven’t done for a long, long time, and I’m not sure what to do or where to go to even find any of it.

In a way, I kind of feel like the right fielder. I played on a softball team when I was a kid, and I sucked. Bigtime. Like, every-time-I-got-up-to-bat-the-dugout-would-groan sucked. So of course they stuck me in right field, where I’d be safe from any action. That’s kind of where I'm at now. I used to be in the game, but I’m kind of past my prime now, so I’ve been put out to pasture in right field. And apparently it’s up to me to make the call that this game is no longer my “thing” and find another sport.  

I wonder if the Average Joes need another player?