The greatest love. Mother love is the greatest love of all.

Vulnerability Is Strength - Photo of pink daylilly by Belynda Wilson Thomas

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 “Encourage and support your kids because children are apt to live up to what you believe of them.” — Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States

The greatest love of all is a mother’s love. Mom always said, ” the greatest gift you can give your children is to love their father.”

Is there an ideal amount of time to wait before having a baby? I’m sure there is, I don’t know what it is. Our son was born after three years. It seemed perfect. He was an easy baby. One little baby you can take anywhere. If you need a sitter it’s easy for only one baby.

When our daughter came along she was just as good of a baby, but two children are a lot more than one. I never wanted an only child. I love having brothers and sisters, so I at least wanted one sibling for them to go through life with. I’ve always thought an ideal family would be two boys and two girls. Everyone has a sister and a brother.

Life is both hard and easy when they are babies. Communication is pretty easy if they cry they are hungry, wet, uncomfortable or tired. It gets more complicated from there. Some lives get so complicated that communication breaks down completely. I don’t know what one has to do to keep the lines of communication open. It is a two way street, but if we always keep our end open – there’s unconditional love again.

If unconditional love does exist I think it would be between parent and child. In Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules For Life he tells us don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them. I think this is really good advice. It is the best feeling in the world when you get a compliment on your children’s behavior.

People love to be around well behaved, smiling, happy children. The magic is gone when they cry, roll on the floor, and thrash about. I was in a grocery store a while ago a young boy was telling his sister what to do and steering her away from things. In a big brother, kind of bossy but not too much kind of way. I had to smile they reminded me of my two kids.

Some people lament about the young people of today but mostly I think they are a great lot. Some of them are finding it hard to find their slot. They are the square pegs in round holes. Many in each generation go through this. Finding our way has never been easy.

When we look at people’s lives we don’t know the angst, frustration, and missteps along the way. We see what looks like overnight success which for many is fifteen years of tough slogging.

When the kids were young most of us were so busy we didn’t have time for hobbies, even reading might be a dream other than nightly bedtime stories and we couldn’t always manage that.

There are so many ways to feel a failure as a parent. When they were babies “the good mothers,” breastfed then made their own baby food. It is easy to feel you don’t measure up. We are good at that, tearing ourselves down, sometimes to the point that we know we could do better but why bother, it won’t be good enough. Good enough for whom? The child, to whom we are the centre of their whole world?

We compare ourselves to others at our peril. We always come up short. If we do the best we can it will be good enough. When I hear children talk proudly about their parents, it is when they knew their parents had struggles, but the child knows they did the best they could for the children and the family.

It is great when we are proud of our children, it might be greater still when our children are proud of us. We set the example for the next generation. How do we expect them to know things we didn’t teach them? No one teaches you about parenthood except by example. Maya Angelou said, “she became the parent her mother was.” If we drop the ball, who picks it up?

Parenthood is a blessing, and a responsibility because we are building the future with our decisions and actions today. No one’s perfect and thankfully perfection is not required. I think we don’t see the result of our parenting until we become grandparents. I look forward to that happy occasion – no pressure kids!

“You’re going to live with this person for the next 18 years. Make sure you raise someone you like.” (grandmother’s saying)

 

Opportunity and Choice,Marriage and Motherhood.

Feelings - photo of clematis by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Every choice is an opportunity. The secret to anything is to find the balance.  This blog has to fit into my life, not become my life. I’m not looking for an obsession but an avenue to explore as a writer.

Becoming obsessed is easy. When we met the love of our life often they took over our life, sometimes to such a degree we lost our self. Children coming into our life compounded things. All things in moderation is my motto. I understand the all consuming needs of being a new mother, I was there once. Motherhood is where we lose our self the most. As we each do the best we can, it is hard to know if what we are doing is best for our children, our family, our self.

A few years ago I had an epiphany, I wasn’t who I thought I was. In my own mind I was the good mother. It was a bitter pill to swallow  realizing I fell into “the controlling” mother camp. I was busy telling my kids what to think and what to do. When I started to listen and ask questions I became more effective. Now I am listening and asking questions, I hear what I said being repeated to me. I have made an impact.

I read we have to get over “how things are said” and start listening to what is said. “Don’t use that word in my house,” may seem like the right thing to say. After all we are setting boundaries. Our children’s job is to grow up and separate from us. What they need from us the most is to be heard. What happens when children aren’t heard? I think a lot of our problems come from children who aren’t heard. We put expectations on them they can’t meet, they don’t know how to tell us and when they try it comes out in a way we don’t find acceptable. If we don’t look past the expression to listen to what is expressed, we’ve failed them “again.”

We all want the kid that excels. When you read about how “the pleaser” does in later life perhaps that isn’t what we should want. Some of us knew what we wanted from an early age and went after it. Many of us meandered through life, trying this and that. Is one way better than the other? When our kids don’t have an early straight path we sometimes give up on them. The big sin of parenthood I believe, is giving up on kids. That sullen look is a soul hurting. Pretending they don’t care, because here they are, and if they care they have to do something, but they don’t know what to do, so they pretend they don’t care.

They do care, they do want success, they ache for it. Being lost, confused, overwhelmed, discouraged, depressed, ostracized, they are convinced nothing they do will ever be good enough. So why try? When someone shows these kids a way to shine, thrive, and grab hold they often do. We have to try and find that someone that can come into our children’s lives. Sometimes it’s a teacher, coach, minister, family friend, or author.

Look at the effect Jordan B. Peterson author of 12 Rules for Life is having. Some people think he is accessing the worst side of our children, but I don’t think so. He understands young men. As a University Professor, Clinical Psychologist and father he understands our youth. How young men need to find meaning and purpose. They find it through manning up and taking responsibility for a wife and family. I recommend Jordan B. Peterson and Joe Rogan’s podcast 1139 as an introductory video if you want to hear what he has to say.

Women may find it a bitter pill to swallow that our liberation hasn’t been without a price. The price is many men don’t know where they fit. If you are the mother of a son, you know what I’m talking about. We want opportunity for our daughters; and we also want it for our sons. No matter what opportunities you find in life, marriage and family is the key for most people to find meaning, purpose and joy. I believe we can have marriage and families, equality and respect. It is not a zero sum game; we can build a future with opportunity and choice for all. If you don’t get choice, it’s not such a great opportunity.

We pay a price for everything we do. If you stay home and raise your children, there’s a price. Going out into the work force has a price. Starting your own business has a price, working for a huge corporation has a price. What is the price you are willing to pay? What is the choice you want to make? We shouldn’t be thinking everyone should make the same choice, or have the same outcome. We should want everyone to have the opportunity to make the choices, to build their life with passion, purpose and meaning.

Reflections on marriage and motherhood

Marriage and motherhood are the two biggest accomplishments in my life. As I sit here a day before my wedding anniversary and a few weeks after my daughter’s bridal shower. I am reflecting on the joy I’ve felt as a mother. Tears spring to my eyes as I think of the wonderful daughter I was blessed with. Any of us who are blessed with a daughter I imagine have these same thoughts. Bringing a life into the world at times seems like the smallest and biggest accomplishment.

As mothers we felt if we worked outside the home we neglected our children. If we stayed inside the home we sometimes felt we neglected our self. We let down the sisterhood who fought for emancipation and women’s rights. At my vantage point I believe the fight was for choice.

In my mother’s time, she left a husband with two children and found she couldn’t support herself and two children. At twenty five widowed with two children and a new baby she was told to give up the baby and build a life. She said, “my children are my life.” This, the truest statement of motherhood is still true today.

Once our children are grown I believe we appreciate them even more. I watched a makeup artist give a makeup tutorial to my daughter. It is lovely seeing the support my daughter and her fiance are getting for their wedding. We rally around as another family is formed. I smile at the hope and joy shining from the faces of brides and grooms at their weddings.  I say a silent prayer hoping that love will still be shining in the years to come. It’s never about the day, no matter how extravagant and beautiful. It is always about the relationship. It is about bringing your best self to the marriage, and bringing out the best in someone else.

The magic of marriage is it transforms two people into a couple. If it is a positive marriage all of society benefits, the chemistry and compatibility evident over the years. Freud said, “It’s a cornerstone of our humanity; only love protects us enough to grow and change.” Love is a verb. If love is something we do instead of something we find, or fall into. Will it have a better chance of standing the test of time? The challenge is to build a life that has meaning. Laugh at life’s challenges, and be willing to get through the tough times knowing this too shall pass. It’s a wild ride. Marriage is both beautiful, and the biggest growth opportunity of your life.

Marriage is I believe the cornerstone of society. It would have been harder bringing up our two children without my husband’s love and support. As a shared goal raising children is one of the best, but not a goal that will fix a marriage. Raising children is a stressful endeavor. The accomplishment like any difficult challenge is rewarding. Watching our children take their place in the world we know their accomplishments aren’t ours, but we feel pride.

Kalil Gibran said, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and thought they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”

The advice I’ve written in wedding cards over the years is; marry the right person and be the right person. If we want our marriage to work we need to look for the best in each other. If we look for our partners short comings, we will find them. Looking for their good points we will find them also. The lens we look through makes all the difference. It is as easy to recount our partner’s good points as their bad. Expecting better instead of worse often gives us better. We get what we expect.

Nobody knows what goes on in someone else’s marriage. Sometimes we don’t even know what is going on in our own. The reason is because we aren’t always straight forward in our communication. Kalil Gibran said, “between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, all love is lost.”

It can be as hard to take back unsaid things as said things. If we truly want better communication sometimes we have to say it. I don’t think you understand what I meant, or what I said. Please accept my apologize for not being a better communicator. I love you, value you, and even though I don’t understand you, I appreciate you. We are on this journey together. I’m in it for the long haul, the ups, the downs, the good, the bad, the funny, and the sad.

In a marriage the two of you may not have the same dreams and aspirations. Everything that is good for one of you should be good for both of you. It may be time for the wife to shine; sometimes it may be time for the husband to shine. If you have each other’s backs and give each other enduring support and encouragement then you feel lifted up. As Dr. Phil says marriage is a safe place to fall. Relaxing in our husband’s or wife’s arms after a good or bad day feels better than being alone in our joy or sorrow.

Some people talk about chemistry as though sex is the most important part of marriage. If you have good sex it’s five percent of the marriage. If you have little or no sex it might become ninety percent of the marriage. So as nike says, “just do it.” Then you can get on with building a marriage.

After thirty two years of marriage I believe it is not lack of love, but lack of friendship that makes an unhappy marriage. After all we spend more time talking and being together than anything else. Ask your husband or wife out for coffee and put the cell phone down. My advice is; if you want a better marriage have more coffee or tea dates. We focus on the big things, but we should enjoy the little things. That’s where the magic is. I said to my husband the other day over coffee. If we travel the world it’s still the two of us, whether in Milan, Paris, or the coffee shop down the street

Where ever you go there you are. If it isn’t good between you does it matter if it’s a place on your bucket list or Tim Horton’s down the street?

Sometimes I think we forget what marriage is. It’s just two people sharing a life. It’s better when it’s a happy life, but that is where the choice lies. You can be happy or you can be unhappy that is your decision. To make happiness your goal is a good way to be unhappy.  If we make meaning our choice it is much easier to pursue meaning than to pursue happiness.  You might not be happy putting your children’s needs ahead of your own, but it’s meaningful and something you will be proud of over the years. Every day we can move forward in pleasure and purpose. There is a lot to savor, food, conversation, laughter, sex, companionship.