Thursday, November 20, 2014

Of Mothers and Mothering (The Sequel)

Last year I wrote the first edition of this blog about how hard the wait for a family is, and how running and traveling are my sanity. That is still true, but the extra time has given and continues to give me time to reflect about the kind of mother I want to be.

For a lot of my impressionable young life I felt that I didn't really get along with other girls. I had some girlfriends, but I also had a time in junior high where not a single girl in my class would talk to me. I remember going to class and all the other girls were sitting on the other side of the room talking about me loudly, to ensure I would definitely hear them. I came home crying every day for months.  I remember being on the school bus and girls in my class passing me the nastiest, name-calling notes. I have those notes to this day somewhere in my basement. I've kept them as a reminder that people can say terrible things to me, but I'm stronger than whatever they're dishing out.

When I was a little girl my mother often called me "tenderhearted". I seriously doubt anyone would call me that now, and those mean girl notes are part of the reason why. People don't mess with the tough guy.  The tenderhearted person gets nasty notes passed on the bus. As I got older and didn't care as much, the meanness stopped. People only want to hurt people who appear to be vulnerable, and I wasn't going to be that person.

I hate the constant talk of "bullying", and I think we really overuse that term. The bottom line is that kids can be really mean. It's one thing if there's physical violence, but it's a fact of life that kids tease other kids. Sometimes it's vicious. Sometimes it really hurts. I've been on the receiving end, and I've been the one dishing it out. How you handle it is a testament to who you are and what kind of adult you're going to become.

As I continue my journey to become a parent, I think a lot about being a mom. What kind of mom do I want to emulate? I have a few friends who I think are incredible moms, and I want to strive to be like them. They aren't perfect, but they are great examples. And of course there is my own mom who raised me to be a strong, confident woman with a great sense of who I am.

When I came home every day crying when other girls were mean to me, my mom constantly reminded me that I was smart, I was funny, I was strong. It wasn't about me, she'd tell me. These girls needed to be mean to someone else to feel better about themselves. If they weren't mean to me, they'd be mean to someone else. In retrospect I'm glad I was their target. I was strong enough to handle it, and I had a mom who instilled in me a sense of confidence and self worth that has made me the woman I am today.

I hope that I can instill in my children that they can be strong, confident, smart and witty just like my mom did with me.  I know there will be times when others will be nasty, and it's how you handle those situations that says a lot about your character. I want my kids to see their mom as a woman who has a career she loves. I hope they'll see me as as woman who pushes to be my best self even with health issues. I hope they'll see the importance of commitment in my dedication to running. I hope they'll know that there will always be people who are mean, but they will always have the same kind of support I had.

It's been nearly two decades, but that girl who cried every day is still a part of who I am. It may be deep inside, but there is a part of me that is vulnerable and tenderhearted. There aren't a lot of people who get to see it, but it's there. I hope to teach my kids the tipping point between vulnerable and tough guy. I'm also hoping to still figure it out for myself.

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