My niece is getting a bicycle for Mother’s Day. Her mom, my sister, has been celebrating Mother’s Day, by buying my niece a present, ever since my niece was a very young child, who came home in tears because she’d just discovered Mother’s Day meant buying a present for your mom and she didn’t have any money. My sister hugged her while she told her that without her she wouldn’t be a mother so she would be getting a present for her instead, a tradition that is well established and continues to this very day.
My sister is an extraordinarily good mother. She has made enormous sacrifices for her daughters. She did not whine about what she gave up in providing a stable, loving, home for them. She took care of her ex-husband so her little girls would know their father. She worked her way out of soul smothering poverty into a position where she now earns what would support my family a couple of times over every year.
As you know, I chose not to have children. I did not want the responsibility of caring for other human beings for the rest of my life. As the eldest of six, I know the worry and obligation that accompany parenting. Ironically, I have found myself in the position of caring for other people’s children all of my life. I’ve observed the frustration parents feel, at being trapped by their biological decisions, when they’d prefer to be otherwise engaged. Parents do not dream of staying up all night with a colicky baby and staggering into work in the morning just as bleary eyed as if they’d been out on a drunken bender all night. No one looks forward to the day when they’ll have to figure out how to manage the defiance of a rebellious teenager. Who relishes the fun of saving for college tuition?
I’ve observed parents, from many generations, who do it right, not so right, and flagrantly, selfishly, wrong. Parenting is a competency that should be taught as part of high school curriculum- all four years. Young people have to understand what to expect from a lifelong relationship that is permanent. Kids need to realize that it is every parent’s duty to prepare their children to be self-sufficient, decent, human beings. A mother is a the first mentor a child encounters, the guide through the early years of human existence and a resource for information throughout life. It is a stunning responsibility.
Creating life is nothing more than a physical exercise, nearly anyone can do it. Nurturing that life; loving, teaching, imposing boundaries, and setting an example are learned skills that require determination and, most importantly, selflessness. A lot of kids don’t learn that at home.