The easiest, simplest and fastest way (and aren’t we all about sound bites these days?) to contemplate a mother’s influence is to think about the impact of her absence.
Pull out all the pleasant memories…the Christmas mornings…Easter baskets…birthday parties…bedtime stories…play dates…class parties…sleepovers…special breakfasts, dinners…fresh cookies.
Try to forget how her smile made you feel…her reassuring embrace…soothing comfort food…sweetness in her touch…words that could calm your worries, bolster your spirits, and just plain let you know it was going to be okay.
Remove her cheering from the stands…her “just go out there and do your best” or “you did your best” or “there’s always next time” coaching…and all that driving to all those practices.
Pretend you didn’t have…that magic cube where you put your dirty clothes and then, Harry-Potter-like, then ended up in your dresser drawer…the extra water bottle and snack that appeared from her tote bag when you were really thirsty and hungry after practice…the Kleenex that waved into your field of vision when, oh yeah, you did have a runny nose …the little rituals when you were sick – rubbing your feet, the cool cloth on your forehead, reading to you, or just the two of you cuddling on the couch.
Ignore life skills of…not having to take dinner out of a box…operating the big magical cube with your dirty clothes before they go into your dresser drawer…sending the water company a smallish piece of paper with your signature in the right place that lets them get your money from the bank so you can keep taking a shower.
Unlearn your manners and observe people’s response… when you don’t know when to say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and the biggies ‘excuse me’ and ‘I’m sorry’…when the peas go on your fork with the help of your thumb…when they hear the slurp of your coffee or soup…when you blow your nose, comb your hair, or adjust your underwear at dinner.
Tell yourself you don’t recall her… backbone to stand up against what society was now condoning… waiting up until curfew…letting you learn some things on your own…courage to not let you learn the others… not giving up on you…no matter how much you screamed at her.
Deafen your ears to all those times you heard…”Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”…“Eat your veggies and you’ll grow up big and strong”…“Share”…“Do your best”…“Play fair”…“Be polite”…“Make a friend”…“Wait your turn”…“If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you, too?”
While a mother’s influence is one of those things that is best measured by contemplating her absence, it’s only a thought, thankfully.
Jane and her husband have two teenagers. She is also the founder of godsheartandhands.org