However, I'm going to do them the favor of not embarrassing them publicly by gushing about how in the absence of either one of them, I would have long ago been committed to the Unpleasant Institution for Men Who Can't Take Care of Themselves, eating mush and watching soap operas all day. At best.
Instead, I offer them Mother's Day bullet points. My mom first:
- She has never given up on her kids, even when (some of us) have been thankless, recalcitrant, unreasonable, nihilistic, self-destructive, or unresponsive. When I was trying my hardest, God knows why, to fail out of high school, she once told me she had had it--she was just going to let me fail. The next day, she was on my back about my homework again. And then for two years after high school, she never stopped trying to get me interested in college even though I constantly rebuffed her, until the day I woke up and said, "Hey--I think I'll go to college now," at which point she produced the application materials out of thin air and started helping me fill them out.
- She always sticks up for the underdog. I don't think she realizes that she's doing this. Whenever there were fights between the siblings, Mom always defended whoever was most beleaguered. This could be frustrating, because the most miserable person wasn't always the one who was right. It seemed unjust if you were righteously indignant but otherwise on an even keel emotionally; but it wasn't so bad when you were being a jerk and feeling terrible about yourself. It took me a long time to realize that there are more important roles for a mom than meting out justice.
- She doesn't take any bullshit. I mean, from me she does. But growing up, I saw her make some grown men look like they were going to cry after they tried to get over on her somehow, especially if they were patronizing in their attempts to placate her. This is another thing she may not realize she's doing. I've seen her intimidate incompetent waiters, amorous drunks, Military Police, and my obnoxious friends, to name but a few. And heaven help the young smartass who makes a sexist comment within earshot of Mom. This taught me to be less of an idiot and a dick than I would naturally have been inclined to be.
- She sets a good example. Although she's not a big storyteller like (ahem) some other members of our family, she has led a rich life, from being a farm kid in hardscrabble Northeastern Montana, to a college sorority girl, military wife, teacher, mom, public servant, non-profit maven, and hardcore backcountry skier. The pace she keeps as a "retired" person puts most working stiffs to shame. Her example, and her encouraging words, make me believe I can keep pursuing new experiences and charging off in new directions endlessly.
Okay, now my wife:
- She's a freaking genius. She's a doctor, of course, and that supposedly takes some smarts. But she also speaks three languages fluently, reads literally four times as fast as me and retains way more information than I do from what she's read; has a near-photographic memory, dead-on sense of direction, and generally has excellent instincts in everything she does. If she weren't kind enough to take care of our kids and me, I would probably hate her for her competence. I might be pretty good at some specific areas of family work, but she is definitely the one whose brain we rely on to keep us afloat, not just in terms of winning the bread, but also of running the day-to-day operations. People probably assume that I do all the traditional "mom stuff" since I stay at home with the kids; but in reality, my wife does about 50% of the mom stuff and 80% of the traditional dad stuff. And she never complains about the workload.
- Her confidence makes us all feel safe. Unlike me, my wife is able to look at huge piles of data and parenting punditry, and determine what makes sense and what doesn't. This makes her quite comfortable with deciding how we should deal with the typical challenges of parenting, and that makes me much more comfortable too. I'm not like a total bonehead who can't make any decisions based on evaluating evidence; but it would take me a long time, and I would still second guess myself. My wife is known at her work for being able to make quick--and wise--decisions with full confidence. She does the same with matters that concern her kids.
- She's a softie. Somebody's got to do it. As no-nonsense as she seems on paper, she can be more indulgent than a doting grandparent when Dad's not around. I'll come home to kids wearing Mom's shoes, playing with pots and pans, makeup brushes, and other non-toy items. Or the UPS man will knock on the door with yet another shipment of actual toys. The best example of how she spoils the kids is the food she makes for them. When I prepare their meals, I think about nutrition, ease of preparation, odds that they will eat it, and ease of cleanup. My wife thinks about nutrition, odds they will eat it, flavor, texture, aroma, visual appeal, and presentation.
|Guess who prepared this meal|