One-of-a-Kind Mom

Can you imagine what the world would be like if all the mothers in the world were exactly alike in how they behaved, in their approach to motherhood, and in the strengths and talents they shared with their families? I confess I feel great relief in knowing that we can each be our own kind of mom, a complete original, unlike any other mother on the face of the planet.

My mom was certainly one-of-a-kind. Like most mothers, she sought to feed, clothe and shelter us well and to educate and raise us to be responsible adults. But, one of the things that set her apart in my mind from all the other mothers I knew was her talent for sewing and clothing design. She didn’t make herself do these things. She loved doing them and so wove them quite naturally into the fabric of motherhood and family life. She always had a project in progress—whether it was Easter dresses or play clothes for my three sisters and me. I never had to worry about wearing the same outfit as another little girl because my mom’s creations were each completely unique and made with just me in mind.

Because my mother loved sewing so well, the significant moments in my life, especially in my childhood, can be reconstructed, to a great extent, with the dresses she has made for me over the years—the powder blue Easter dresses for starters (powder blue, she felt certain, was my color) but also the royal blue, Swiss-dot gown trimmed in cream I wore to my first holiday ball, the pearly mauve southern belle dress she custom-designed for my senior prom and, of course, the simple but exquisitely bustled white cotton wedding dress she created when my husband and I married.

When I think of all the beautiful clothes my mother created for my sisters and me, I feel the tiniest twinge of regret that I haven’t spent more time sewing for my own children. My mother taught me to sew and encouraged me to sew and while I enjoyed sewing as a teen and felt very satisfied with some of the outfits I made, sewing hasn’t been one of my top priorities in my adult years.

As a woman and a mother, I find myself drawn most powerfully to a love of language and of reading and writing and sharing these loves with my children. I am definitely in sync with the school of thought that bemoans the state of “so many books, and so little time.” Even so, I try to make the most of the time I have with my kids and the books I love. I find great delight in rediscovering and sharing with my children some of the books I enjoyed as a child; among them—Go Dog, Go by P.D. Eastman and William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, as well as chapter books like The Twenty-One Balloons by Pene William du Bois and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. And my children and I have enjoyed discovering some new and wonderful books together. We have become especially fond of Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton and Walter: The Story of a Rat by Barbara Wersba

Just as a good portion of my childhood can be reconstructed by looking back at the dresses my mother made for me, my children’s childhoods are, in large part, being constructed with the books we read and love together. Inspired by the stories we’ve shared my children have, in their own imaginative play, lived as boxcar children, explored their own secret gardens and “survived” the Dustbowl of the 1930’s.

Given the beautiful clothes my mom has made (for her children and grandchildren) and the love of literature I have shared in my home, I think my children realize that it is not only possible, but preferable, that a mother pursue a great love—whether that love be sewing or reading and writing or sports or something else—while raising children she loves. If we as mothers do something we absolutely love with and alongside raising children we absolutely love, we will, I believe, almost guarantee our children being raised in an atmosphere steeped in joy.

As I write this, it is clear to me that our children need not share our exact same interests to the extent we feel them, but that by seeing us pursue and develop our particular loves and talents, they will receive the permission they need to discover and nurture their own great loves and talents too.

My mother loved sewing and her dresses were, for me, the intersection of her love for creating something beautiful and her love for me. I love the written word—reading it and writing it—and the books in our home and the stories I’ve shared with my children are, for me, the intersection of my love for the written word and my love for them.

As I think about this, I cannot help but contemplate what intersections of love might occur in my children’s lives when they someday become parents themselves. My oldest daughter, now seventeen years old and four years older than my next child, is very likely to be the first of my children to have children of her own.

To a great extent she shares my love of story and my mother’s love of creating with one’s hands (she draws and paints beautifully). In particular, she loves to write and illustrate children’s picture books. But, when I think of this daughter and think of what she might someday be like as mother, I think the thing that will set her apart, the thing that will, I’m sure, make her a mother like no other, is her love of fun and her penchant for being a ham. She’s long possessed the gift of an almost unbounded sense of humor. Unlike me, nothing embarrasses her. She’s prone to impromptu slap-stick comedy routines that leave the rest of us bellyaching with laughter. I’ve told her more than once that she’s part Lucille Ball and part Carol Burnett with a sprinkling of Drew Barrymore thrown in. And while she may, in some respects, remind me of these three women, she leaves me with no doubts but that she is very much her own woman, and will, most assuredly, be her own kind of mom. It is clear to me even now, that there will be no shortage of fun, love, and laughter in her home.

This same daughter, when she was about 8-years-old, wrote a picture book for me called MOMS. She illustrated it in her vibrant and boldly-colored signature style, filling it with pictures of moms in all sizes, shapes, colors and styles. Her short but sweet story reads, “Some moms are big; some moms are small. Some moms are short; some moms are tall. Some moms are cool; some moms are quiet (a picture of a rather bookish-looking mom here). Some moms are black, some moms are white but my mom is just right (meaning, of course, just right for me).”

All these years later, my daughter’s story reminds me that we moms need not be exactly alike, that each mother can have her special way of being in the world, of being with their children. And, if we will act on these truths, we can give ourselves the permission we need to use our unique gifts and talents to be our own kind of moms, the kind of moms who are themselves, and in being themselves, just right for the children in their care.

Excerpted from It’s Okay to Take a Nap: And Other Reassuring Truths for Mothers Everywhere by Debra Sansing Woods; Cedar Fort.

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