87: The Best Kind of Mother
87: The Best Kind of Mother
The Best Kind of Mother
Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.
Years ago, before I had kids, I read an article by humorist Erma Bombeck called “What Kind of Mother Would…?” I laughed at her exaggerated descriptions of motherhood. It was only after I became a mother that I saw beyond the humor to the heart-wrenching emotion that often accompanies that question.
I was reminded of this one day when I received a note from the mom of one of my students apologizing for something she felt would cause me to think she was a bad mother. The funny thing was, until she called the incident to my attention, I wasn’t even aware of it. She had recently given birth, and the mistake she had obviously agonized over was simply one of those humorous things that tend to happen with a new baby in the house. I couldn’t help but wonder at the irony of the situation. No doubt exhausted and sleep-deprived, she had felt compelled to use what precious time and energy she had to write a full-page letter apologizing for something I hadn’t even noticed. She was, no doubt, asking herself the question: “What kind of mother would.?”
I knew just how she felt. One cold January day, I awoke to snow on the ground and the announcement that school would be delayed two hours for students, with teachers reporting as usual. This meant that my son, Seth, a high school senior, would be responsible for getting his eight-year-old sister, Ally, to school.
I peeked in at my daughter, sleeping peacefully with rows of tiny pink curlers in her hair. She had asked me to put them in the night before and was no doubt dreaming of the bouncy curls she was sure they would produce.
Seth groggily assured me that he would handle getting Ally to school before rolling back over in bed. I left, feeling guilty about not being home making hot chocolate and warm memories with my kids.
What kind of mother would leave her children to fend for themselves on a day like this?
By afternoon, the sun was out. I drove to my parents’ home to pick up Ally. When I got there, I saw a girl about her size on the floor watching cartoons. It took a moment for me to realize I was looking at my daughter. Great globs of matted, mangled hair stuck out from her head in every direction.
“Hey, Mama,” she said, looking up at me.
“Ally,” I managed. “What happened to your hair?”
“Oh,” she said, “we had a hard time getting my curlers out. Seth tried to help me. He finally said to just wear a hat. Guess what!” she continued. “We picked up Seth’s girlfriend and went out for breakfast!”
What kind of mother would send her child to school looking like her hair had been combed with an eggbeater?
When I saw Ally’s teacher a few days later, I felt I should offer an explanation for my daughter’s appearance the morning of the snow. There was no need. Ally had told the class all about her adventure.
“What a wonderful memory she’ll have of hanging out with her brother before he leaves for college,” said the teacher.
We finished our conversation and went our separate ways, but I couldn’t get her comment off my mind. I’d been asking myself that same old question, but now I sensed the true answer.
What kind of mother would leave her children to fend for themselves on a snowy morning and send her daughter to school with her hair a mangled mess? What kind of mother would do a thousand other things she thought she’d never do?
A real mother. A good mother. A mother a lot like me!
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