Go ahead and ask my mom, she’ll tell you: I was a strange child.
She’ll swear I wasn’t so bad, but don’t believe it. At the tender age of 20, she had a brand spanking new baby boy and a heart full of straight-outta-the-70s enthusiasm. Of all the possibilities she’d tried her best to prepare herself for, she likely didn’t know what to make of what she got: a self-conscious, insecure crybaby son who made a regular habit of forsaking his baseball mitt for boxes of colored pencils and traded BMX biking for supporting roles in school plays and talent shows.
There’s a lot to appreciate about my mom and I can’t begin to get into all of it now, but the thing I’ve been thinking about the most lately was something that I don’t imagine my mother recognized about herself until she was well into parenting. Maybe it was there all along, waiting to come out, or maybe it took the refining fires of three children in three years to flip the switch, but Mom is a truly creative soul.
Well, you’d have to be, if you’re trying to do right by a basket case like me. Standard Operating Procedure wasn’t going to get the job done; Mom had to improvise. Sure, she became my cheerleader and biggest fan, but more importantly, she cultivated a weirdness in her already weird son.
I have to think there was a temptation to reign things in from time to time, to nudge me in the direction that would get me the most friends and her the smoothest parent-teacher conferences. But she didn’t do that. It’s almost as if she only knew how to see the very best version of me, the very best possible outcome for my strange little life… and dedicated herself to clearing the path for me to crash and spin my way toward it.
Anyway, you should see this lady in action, I mean it. To this day, she has an offbeat, creative approach to every decision, every relationship. Somehow, she’s the best at everything. And, at the top of her game, she moves on to something new. It really is astonishing.
As adults, my sisters and I phone each other up and shrug, saying things like, “so, Mom decided she’s going to ride motorcycles now.” “Mom sent me a book of Buddhist poetry, apparently she’s been reading a lot of it.” “Mom finished her nursing degree and is getting nervous about what to say in her Valedictory speech to the other graduates.” “Ohio.com sent me an email the other day, asking for a bio on Mom. I guess she’s been nominated by the Ohio Women’s History Project as Woman of the Year.”
No, I’m not kidding.
Just like Mom, I get to parent three children of my own very soon and of course I’m scared. But I have the unique privilege of learning from the best.
Adversity? Hah. Mom could tell you stories. But she’ll be the first to let you know: you’ll be fine. Wing it. Improvise. Work hard. Listen.
I know you know this, Mom, but I’m about to have a trio of eager boys on my hands and I have no idea what I’m doing. But, then, I have every advantage and you to thank for it.
The New Model
There was a period of time where it was looking like Carey wasn’t going to get the chance to be a mother. It’s safe to blame me, but the truth is, my apprehensions about parenting aside, it always bummed me out a little bit.
Fact is, I always knew she was born to be a mom.
You know those activist types that are willing to die for their cause? They stand in the picket lines, screaming in your face, spitting bile and righteous indignation? They know they’re right and you’re wrong because MEAT IS MURDER, MAN! ABORTION STOPS A BEATING HEART! IT’S ADAM AND EVE, NOT ADAM AND STEVE! LISTEN UP, ASSHOLE!
Now picture the exact opposite of that.
That’s my wife.
Oh, trust me, she’s an activist through and through. You’ll see her on the picket line and, make no mistake, she’ll tell you what she believes. But she’ll probably whisper. And she’ll smile apologetically. And she’ll ask you what you think.
And she’ll listen.
For all her conviction and her lifestyle decisions, she’s, at heart, a peaceful person. Inside, she might be praying you’ll reconsider your position on a couple of things, particularly if your position hurts others. But when you get to the bottom of it, she wants to know you. She sees the thing that most people miss: change doesn’t start with clever slogans or policy changes or media coverage.
It starts with relationships.
Like Mom, Carey is also a creative soul. When we first met, she surprised me with poetry and, in one way or another, she’s continued ever since.
She paints. And she designs spaces. She plays the saxophone and she’s good. She writes and she expresses herself better than most anyone I know.
It would be hard to find my mother’s equal when it comes to mothering. And I can’t say I was really even looking for it. But the qualities that were the most important to me about my mother… her creativity, her conviction, her passion and her willingness to cultivate something in her children that goes beyond the norm…
If there’s anyone who I think has the potential to stand with my mom in the Great Moms Hall of Fame, it’s my wife.
Care, we were trying for none and got three. Somebody seems to think we should be doing this.
When we first found out, we cried a whole lot and you said, “can’t we just do one single thing like normal people?” I suppose, at this point, we both know the answer.
And frankly, you’re going to be great. Let’s agree to never let the world infect our three little lunatics with the Normal Virus.
I can’t wait to watch you do your thing.