Monday, June 23, 2008

Ruth asked: What are your biggest weaknesses and strengths as a mother?

It's a more complicated question than I thought at first. I think there are different aspects of being a mother and I have different strengths and weaknesses regarding different aspects.

There is the skills aspect of being a mother, and in that area I had many strengths and advantages. I know a lot about child development, education, arts and crafts, relationships, personality, communication - know a lot about a lot of things that I've had fun teaching my daughters. I was never at a loss for pulling a word game out of my hat while we were taking a long hot walk and I could always create some kind of art or science project out of found junk. I knew how to use good listening skills (even if I didn't always) and knew and still know how to apologize wrong. I was a decent cook and provided a reasonably clean and comfortable environment. I knew how to teach my daughters how to write and think well. I knew my wildflowers and had good skills for teaching independent thinking and genuine communication.

I had and have skill weaknesses too. Not being able to drive was a pain for the girls at times, and I wasn't sensitive enough to that discomfort on their parts, didn't really get it. I am not and never was a great organizer and I think that made family life harder on all of us. I am not and never was great at making holidays, and never worked hard enough to overcome my aversion to and stress around major holidays. I was not a skilled, gentle Sweet nurturer of sick children.

More important than the skill strengths and weaknesses are the strengths and weaknesses of essence, feeling, way of being in the world. Here I'll tackle weaknesses first. I've let my ego get in the way, been embarrassed by behavior I which never should have taken personally. I was too hard on them when they were growing up, especially in school. I took stellar performance for granted when I wish I had given more praise and made more comments on their many excellent accomplishments. I've struggled with when to hold on and when to let go. I've let my own feelings dominate at times when their feelings were more important. I doubted when I should have believed and believed when I should have doubted. My biggest weakness can be summed up in the statement that at times I let my feelings be more important than theirs and did damage to them through that selfishness.

On a personality and feeling level, I think my greatest strength as a mother is real love for my daughters, love that looks at them as individuals and wants them to be the best versions of themselves (love that allows me to get past wanting them to be alternate versions of myself or to make me proud). I wanted the girls, adored them clearly and purely when they were tiny, marveled at ever finger, toe, word, dance step. I held and kissed and cuddled and taught and contained with deep love. I accepted that they would make choices different from mine and, with uneven grace, have respected and supported their choices. I continue to work hard to understand them, apologize when I need to. With no effort at all, I continue to adore them, want to spend time with them, splash love all over them. I think the strength I can usually show as a mother of adult children is best expressed in a recent poem:

To Grown Daughters

To love you I must

trust your judgement

separate my serenity

from your well-being

love you without need

embrace and release.


Mary said...

Very honest comments. This would be a hard question to answer. I think perhaps one's children could answer it more easily.

It makes me wonder if parents and children see the same things as strenghths, the same things as weaknesses.

SeaStar said...

Interesting that Mary thinks parents and children might have different answers to the strengths and weaknesses question. What do you think Turh? Was it different from your perspective?

Ruth said...

I think our answers are less different than many family's would be because we talk about this stuff (and you listen).

I can't think of anything I'd say differently except that you forgot the sensory things and the attunement with the natural world. You didn't mention blind child or waking us up to see the moon, etc...

Mary said...

Nice to see that Ruth and you see things pretty much the same way. Good that you are able to talk about these things as you do!

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