I look at her, marveling at her literal and emotional growth. She was a huge baby, with huge eyes and deep dimples to match. Now, she is a mother, and I am honored to be hitched to her journey.
Watching her make strides, encounter stumbles, get back up and keep at whatever she seeks is both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. In one chamber, she's doing her best and seeing victories that I get to witness. In another, I know she deserves more sounding boards and tools to navigate her life successfully, and that I cannot give anymore than I humanly have to help her ward off sorrows and sad tomorrows, yanks the strings. In the third chamber, I am delighted to do my best by her so that she can do the same with her children. And, in the fourth I wonder, if my mother were still here, how would she revel in witnessing my fetes and wrestle with my failures and sorrows?
Most of my questions will never have answers -- only my mother could provide me with those. However, I never seek what kind of grandmother she would be. That small, brief window through which I watched unflinchingly provided a complete view of her in that role.
To her first grandchild and all who witnessed them together, she was perfection, a mixture of love with a dash of silly and natural talents to cook hearty meals to delight the spirit while singing soulfully to soft slumber or big belly laughs, and dancing to dazzle her biggest little cheerleader. She was treasured in this role and reveled in it.
Sensitivity to others without a living mother is important to me and I gladly offer a helpful heart and hand. Unless a motherless mother tells you her story, you may never fully know what she experiences, especially during those major dates throughout the year.
I knew I wold be an effective grandmother. I would earn that beautiful love from my grandchildren as my mother had earned from her only grandchild at the time. And like her, I cook, sing and dazzle with my dance moves :).
I imagine what lessons I might have learned faster, improvements I might have made sooner and whether maturing into adulthood could have been hastened or hindered if my mom were here to provide an outlook only a sharp, intelligent, learned mother could.
Experiencing her relationship with my children and how their love for her might manifest would be ideal. Would she take them on photo adventures, encourage their budding interests or build homemade forts with them, as I do with my grandchildren? How often would she save my children from well-deserved discipline, forgetting how that newly-developed trait she has was clearly missing from my childhood? What would she teach them and re-enforce? Would she attend their school and extracurricular events beaming with joy? What kind of "when mommy was little" stories would she relay to my children during visits? Would she point out certain characteristics my children inherited from me? How might she catch me before (or as) I fell? And because I have operated on the "wing and a prayer" system, I wonder how much of her wisdom and support might assist me with solid, real-time guidance during straight talks to bring me back to reality.
There are no surefire answers, since her home-going wings came just before my firstborn (who would be her second grandchild) was due. What is known is she equipped me with the best tools she had to handle whatever came at me with a force that a strong team possesses; her heavenly help and my determination to conquer obstacles. I knew she would be fair and fight for me the way I am and do for my children. My mom sowed into me the importance of responsibility, independence, being supportive, equal treatment ("I don't play favorites and won't allow it among my children," she would say to the uninitiated), and having a spiritual foundation that I rely mightily on.
Getting motherhood consistently right is impossible and erring on the side of caution does not always yield the ideal outcome (Think: getting rid of your children's "bad seed" friends; the relationship with the toxic boy/girlfriend ends; playing hooky is non-existent; backtalk happens to other people). But, watching my child progress through motherhood, I am grateful to go on adventures, be a source of encouragement, a creator of fun, a teacher on life, the ultimate audience cheerleader, a revered storyteller, a safety net, a sideline observer, a memory maker, a guidance counselor and a reality-checker. Oh, and survive parenting teenagers and still have NO grey hair:)
Observing mothers blessed with theirs makes me treasure being here for my children and those children without mothers of their own. Moreover, coupled with typical emotional growth factors (e.g., environmental, maturation and situational), my mother's absence in helping me navigate the sometimes excruciating, though oftentimes enriched, blessing of being one, has made me more:
Achieving maternal perfection is not in my possession. No one has it, whether your mother (or maternal figure) helps you or not. Mistakes, microscopic and massive, will occur. They help us dedicated moms equip and enrich our children. How will children learn if examples of evolution do not exist? Because let's be clear, our children "hear" us and they might listen for a minute (which is generous, I think), but they "get it" by watching us.
Making mistakes and implementing any lessons learned, so that my children get it, is fine with me. After all, this wing and a prayer thing is all I have and it serves me well.
The four-chambered heart beats with sympathy for those like me without mothers and maternal figures, satisfaction for what's been accomplished to-date, solace in doing my best, and seeking to be the most awesome mother a wing and a prayer help me to be.
So, if you are a motherless mother, praying and winging it, doing your best despite obstacles and mishaps, know that your efforts make you awesome, compassionate, appreciative and most importantly, human. Stay encouraged.