Getting to know my Mom
It took me eighteen years to spend some quality time with my mother and discover what an incredible journey she has had with my brothers and me. She is the kind of person who has always been very involved with all parts of our daily lives. In fact, she was the kind of mother who always had time for her three sons, worked full-time and had time to devote to community projects too. Her energy and enthusiasm for all of these things seemed endless and she always tried to teach the three of us to see the value in the idea of giving back to the community. I was always glad that she was present at my games and supported me through school, but it took me over a decade to learn what motivated her to be so enthusiastic about her job as a mother of three sons.
My mother grew up in a small town in Vermont. Her parents were divorced when she was young. She got to visit her father who worked on farms one weekend per month. Her stepfather and mother raised her. They were blue collar workers and provided the basic needs for her and her two siblings. She was the oldest of the three. My mother was very independent from a young age, did well academically in school, participated in all extracurricular activities, and was active in her local church. Because her parents worked so much, they were not able to attend many functions and never were able to go to her sporting events. After high school, she went to Syracuse University and spent one year of that time in France. She studied International Relations and wanted to join the Peace Corps and save the world. Instead, she returned to Vermont, married my father when she was twenty-three, and worked in law offices as a paralegal and Administrative Assistant in a County Attorney's office. Of course, we need to get to the main part of her story which she states are her three sons. My eldest brother was born the next year, when my mother was twenty-four years old.
So many photos of my brothers and me which my mother loves to look at and remember the countless birthday parties, family events, ball games and trips we have shared. I don't remember many of those events, yet the photos do bring up faded memories. However, when I watched her looking at those photos, it was clear to me how much she cherishes those moments in time captured in photographs. My mother loved planning our birthday parties. Every birthday party had a theme. My poor older brother, Richard, was dressed up like Robin Hood for his fourth birthday. She made his a little green hat out of felt with a feather hot glued to the side. She even had him wearing green tights. His little friends were dressed up like their favorite storybook character. Another year, she had a “Police” birthday party for me. She borrowed a uniform from a friend and dressed up as a police officer. She set up an obstacle course for us to do outside, like the police might do at a police academy. She invited lots of kids and always made a pinata to go along with the theme. According to my mother, throwing birthday parties for boys was really fun for her because she loved themes that could involve physical activities, getting dirty, and no drama.
I sometimes wondered if my mother had wished she'd had a daughter. I remember her once telling me that a certain girl was “the daughter she never wanted.” I recall her laughing after she made the comment, but it was not until recently we discussed what she meant. According to my mother, she was really happy to have sons. When her first son was born, she was afraid about being a good mother and how to properly handle a baby. She was relieved to discover that her 8 pound 13 ½ pound son was not at all fragile as she had expected. Her experience with a durable baby boy put her worries about motherhood at ease. Once I came along, three years later, she told me she was content to have another boy because she felt like she “had the boy thing down.” When she learned she was pregnant the third time, she wished for a boy. Part of her her mindset was being practical since she already had so many boy clothes and toys. My mother also says, “...I am pretty sure God intended for me to have sons. I am more of a tomboy than I am barbie doll. I am sure I would not have done well teaching a daughter how to do all the girlie things. Not to mention, when my nieces were little, I noticed the drama began very early on and they talked incessantly.” Of course she winks and grins with these remarks. She was like a second mother to my cousins and loves them dearly.
As much as she is quick to point out the reasons she loved having sons and why they are so easy to raise, there is more to this story. I can't count the times she has asked all of us why we need to scratch ourselves all of the time. This is not something females understand. It is not something males really want or feel they need to explain because it is just what we do. She can laugh about it and enjoyed imitating us and asking if we would like to see her walking around the house in her underwear scratching or fondling her parts. My mother was less tolerant of another brotherly trait – squabbling. That was another part of our dynamic which just seemed normal to my brothers and me. We just liked to agitate each other. To my mother this was upsetting because she didn't want anyone hurt and she wanted to make sure we had good relationships in the future. It was not easy for her to get us to engage in conversations about feelings and relationships. Try as she might, we were most often not did not feel her same need to talk these things out. Our lack of interest in having long converstions was especially difficult for her while she was deployed to Kosovo with the Army. Being so far from her sons and only getting a few sentences from each of us made it even harder to be away. She said the distance just seemed so much farther. In the end, she said she discovered the most meaningful and informational conversations with her sons was in the car. She found that she would learn so much in ten minute car conversations, so that became her strategy for maintaining her connection as we got older and busier in our individual lives.
Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs, yet there is no school or manual that instructs people. My mother said she used to wish there was a manual but realized it would have to be different for each child. She loved to watch the three of us play sports. My mother is a photographer and made it her job to take photos of every game and of all the players so she could share the with each family. She explained that the moments on the baseball fields, football fields, lacrosse fields and basketball courts were some of the happiest times of her life. Watching us play brought tremendous joy to her life because the team sports were so much more than just exercise. She liked watching the dynamics of players, the leadership and mentoring of the coaches with the players, the individual determination of each player, the friendships formed amongst the parents and the proud sense of community.
Each of her sons had very different personalities and interests. There were the things we all had in common when we were young, such as little league. Yet, as we grew, our personalities, strengths and interests were unique to each of us. My mother said that was one of the coolest things about being a parent. Watching each of us grow into our own individual with unique gifts and talents. She enjoys her role as the person in this world whose job it is to unconditionally love and support each of us in our life journey. Her joy in life has been greatly centered around nurturing us, supporting us, encouraging us, challenging us, FEEDing us and teaching us. It has been hard for her to send two of us off to college and only have one more son at home. Perhaps that is the difficult part of being a parent of threes sons – they eventually move out and begin their own lives.
Until we were brought into her life, my mother said she did not know she had so much love to give. She also said that she learned her heart and capacity to love was not fixed, it grows and grows and grows. This proved to be important for my mother who has been a single mother for about ten years. She has had to juggle raising three boys, working full-time, going back to school for professional development and keeping up with all of our activities. These things might not have been possible if it was not for her profound love for each of us and her “steadfast determination to do her very best, albeit imperfect.” As she looks toward the future, there are only two years until my youngest brother graduates from high school. Her plans are not certain, but she speaks frequently about doing humanitarian work in a third world country.
One thing I know for sure, she does have a heart that would be full of love to share with children anywhere in the world. At some point she will be a grandmother and she tears up at this thought. However, she notes there is no need for any of us to hurry. She wants to see each of us take time to get our own lives started and enjoy some of the adventures it is harder to do when you are tied down by people and circumstances. In the end, my mother noted the best thing about being a mother of three sons is knowing that “even though they leave the nest, they are always in her heart, mind and spirit.”