In the tradition of my cute sister, Marta and her "On the Spot" interviews...I have decided to chat with some of my favorite people about their areas of expertise. I always learn so much from my friends.
Up first is my mom, Marty.
Remember when you lived at home and blah, blah, blah...your mom was full of the most helpful advice? You couldn't wait to be a grown up and figure out all the answers on your own.
Then you grew up and wondered how your mom suddenly got so smart?
That's why I wanted to talk to Mom. She raised seven kids, married them off fabulously and is now a world-famous Oma adored by 18 grandkids. All the while she has maintained her own hobbies and talents and cultivated a storybook romance with the man she married 38 years ago.
Here are her thoughts on being a mom:
Question One: What are your top three parenting suggestions for mothers of young children?
1. Take care of yourself. Do your hair and makeup, and have clothes that fit and make you feel cute. You'll be cheered up whenever you look in the mirror. This is your career, and you deserve respect and self-respect.
2. Lighten up on everyone, including yourself. Laugh every chance you get and try to see the humor in your life. Have your camera, blog, notebook or telephone handy to report on the crazy moments. It will help you see the funny side.
3. Rest Time. (This saved my sanity.) Have a time of day when everyone has to occupy themselves safely for an hour or so. The kids can take naps, read, watch TV, whatever. The point is to give yourself a break. You can straighten the room you'll be in, but you can't do any laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. Do something you love to do. Be very protective of this time.
Question Two: You rode on the teenage roller coaster seven times...but four times with girls, which must not have been easy. Yet you managed to maintain close relationships with all your daughters. How?
When adolescence hits, it feels like your daughter is rejecting you. It hurts. It's easy to get defensive and turn it into a battle of wills. I gradually learned that my daughter was just as confused by the changes in her personality as I was. Finally I backed off and gave her permission (in my own mind, and through my actions) to grow up. We'd already practiced for this when she was two. Sometimes she threw tantrums and had to do it herself, other times she wanted to be carried and cuddled like she was as a baby. The pre-teen and early teenage years are very similar to the terrible twos. When I learned to get out of her way, but stand close enough to catch her if she fell, she felt supported and loved. Then it felt like we were working together on a project: gently unpicking the apron strings instead of ripping them savagely from the seams!
Question Three: Do you have any mothering regrets?
If I'd had the wisdom I have now, I would have been a better mom. But I wouldn't have the wisdom if I'd done it any differently. Even though I made tons of mistakes, I don't have regrets. Some great advice I got when my kids were little was "Live each season of life to the fullest and don't wish it away. Then you won't have to wonder where it went." Of course there were lots of times I looked forward to the future with anticipation, but I searched hard for the joy I knew I was having!
Question Four: You write a lot about your mom. She must have been a big influence. In what ways were your parenting styles the same? Different?
My mom made being at home fun. Her family was her first priority. She encouraged and supported my activities, and was always involved as a Sunday School teacher, Brownie Scout leader or room mother. Mom welcomed my friends, and they all loved her. I was never embarrassed by her, but proud of how pretty and hospitable she was. These are some ways I tried to emulate her. Mom was very talented at sewing, interior design, refinishing furniture, flower arranging and other crafts. I fell short in these skills, and felt unsuccessful when she re-did my projects. I handled that in my own family by letting my kids have all the talent.
Question Five: And now...you've gained seven new children: in-laws! What are your tips for being a good mother-in-law?
A mother-in-law is everybody's joke. It's pretty scary to become one! No matter the circumstances, I knew my kids loved me and put up with my idiosyncrasies. They were used to me. When new adults came into the family they were suddenly faced with peculiarities they hadn't experienced before. It's funny to know you've become a person your kids make fun of on their way home! I've loved receiving full grown kids who are already trustworthy and responsible with no effort on my part. I want each couple to feel that we support them and view them as their own family. I never want them to feel pressure from us that would cause stress on their marriages. We're happy to give advice, but we want them to depend on each other and the Lord. They are ALWAYS welcome, but they never have to explain or make excuses for why they couldn't come. I hope I'm not the reason for an argument. One time a friend of mine, also with young children, said she was praying for the mothers of the children that would marry hers. I took her suggestion and also prayed for the children themselves. It's interesting that she became my daughter's mother-in-law. We were praying for each other! Because I had prayed for my future in-law kids, I already had a great love for them when they joined our family. I think of them as my children, too.
Question Six: What was your all-time favorite parenting book?
I read everything I could find, but the two books that remained constant over thirty years were Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock, and Children: The Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs. A statement by Dr. Spock: "Trust yourself. Nobody knows your child as well as you do."
Question Seven: And your favorite book to read aloud to children?
What Does the Train Say? by Laura Richards. A friend had an old copy before I had kids. I couldn't find the book for myself, so I memorized the poem, and repeated it to all my kids when they were little. I finally found a new version and bought it about ten years ago.
A mother once said, "Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories."
The only thing I know for sure about motherhood is that it's worth it.
Thanks, Mom! You are inspiring.