Mother’s Day is always a strange day for me. My mother is no longer here, nor is my mother-in-law, and I’m not a mother. I can certainly celebrate the mothers I know, which is what I usually do. The day turns more into a day of memory or nostalgia. But this year I’m happy that I have a place to put those reflections.
My parents talked, a lot. In their bookshelves were books on parenting. My sister and I talked through what we imagined they talked about based on our joint memory filtered through our adult minds. We think they both had philosophical minds, and their relationship in part was sense making together. Intentional parenting that stemmed in treating us like people and not kids was one thing we think they discussed at length. My mother and father had different upbringings for sure; different time periods, different cultural backgrounds. My father’s mother, Luella, died when he was young. She was mother to him and one brother only. The other children were from a different mother. My dad was raised by his dad. My mother was part of a large family, and her mother is still alive and just turned 90. Doing the math, she was 17 when she had my mother. We figure my mother and father had ideas about what they wanted their family to be based on their own experiences. How did this show up?
I forget when they started, but my parents set up this system where they dedicated an hour to each one of us, which were called “our hour”. This ranged from once a week to once a month. During this hour, it was just one of us kids with one of them and we would go do something together. Sometimes just talk over an ice-cream cone at McDonalds, sometimes we would do some activity like bowl. At one point, they gave us these special notebooks that were meant for writing letters to them, and they in turn would write letters to us. We would write down the things we were frustrated with and happy about (mostly the frustration came out).
My parent were very much into celebrating what makes us human. My mother nursed younger brother for a long time. I would get embarrassed, she would not. There are lots of pics of us as kids, running around naked. When I got my period, my parents congratulated me and turned it into a celebration.
I will say this was not always the case. Both wearing deodorant and my first bra were less celebratory and came with side comments that made me feel absolutely uncomfortable. Puberty is awkward.
There was also the way they approached sex. We weren’t allowed to be in our rooms with someone from the opposite sex with the door closed starting in high school. For me at this age, sex was the furthest thing from my mind. All I could think was, wow, my parents are sex crazed. Why do they think we all are? This was an effort of protection they felt they could give.
My mother was not alive when I lost my virginity and I did not discuss it with my father. However, when my sister left for college, my parents certainly hadn’t voiced any expectations that sex was something that happened only after marriage. They were absolutely Catholic as I’ve mentioned, but my mother was okay being the dissident voice and often was. She was in fact the one who talked to her friends who did have these expectations.
I appreciate the effort and time my parents put into parenting. I think it probably got harder and harder as they had more kids and were faced with other life challenges. Their practices of intentionality are still alive in me. Here are just a few more pictures to end with, showing some of the time they spent with us.
Happy Mother’s Day!