I won’t lie, most days I go to bed pretty satisfied with how I mommied that day. Kids made it to school, kids were fed, kids went to bed clean. Some days this means we had great conversation in the car; other days I’m begging them to please just STOP ARGUING with each other. Most days it means I cook a meal at home; some days it means if everyone wants to not go to bed hungry we are eating McDonald’s. I do always work a bath in to their day…we count the pool, right?
This weekend I’m reflecting on how my kick-butt parenting is 98% the result of my mother showing me how to get things done. (2% of my parenting style is attributed to my father – my inability to sit still for even one full weekend day leads to some pretty awesome adventures). If you don’t know my mom, let me tell you a little bit about the woman who set the bar pretty high for us Mendel kids as parents.
Young Rachel was a sexy, cool combo of hippie and city. I don’t have any actual proof of hippie activities, but I found a short jean skirt and bell bottoms in her stuff once and I have a few pictures like the one on the right. A bus trip in the 70’s is hippie chic. She was a lifeguard, was the first in her family to graduate college, became a physical therapist, and has a host of pretty awesome stories from her 20’s that ‘m not allowed to share if I want her to appreciate this tribute.
This of course was until she had me, who instantly drained her of all her previous powers (it’s what kids do). Thankfully, my mom was one of those rare birds who was born for being a parent. She lived for me, and even though I probably didn’t realize it at the time I know I am who I am today because of it. She kept up with me for 7 years, at which time she decided she was doing such a bang-up job she had TWO more kids.
She had my brothers when she was just a little bit younger than I am now. I am currently 37, and sometimes feel 50 by 7pm. Considering that Lennon is a miniature version of me, I am 100% perplexed about how raising me for 7 years inspired her to have more children. I say that out of love…he’s exhaustively wonderful. Really.
Throughout the 17 years I spent at home before leaving for college, I can confidently say there was never a time that I did not feel overwhelmingly loved and supported by my mother. I didn’t understand a lot of the sacrifices she made, or why she made them, until I had my own children. She never chose herself once after we were in her life. She always chose us. She always showed up.
She was there to applaud my every success but more importantly was by my side for every failure. Now a mom myself, this is even more impactful to me when I consider the fact that in my high school years, my brothers were also involved in their own activities and she somehow managed to be present for all of us. I watched many of our peers crave this type of involvement from their parents.
Throughout all of the multiple after-school commitments (and her working full-time), I always remember eating at home. I have absolutely no idea how my mom managed to make us dinner every night.
When the boys were 4, I put them in T-ball. Mind you, this means they had no homework or any other life commitments. We did not sign up for a second season. I’ll say it again. I have no idea how my mom made us dinner every night.
After I left for college, my mom managed to project her support of me all the way to Tallahassee. When I came home my freshman year, she pushed me to restart and get back up there to earn my degree. I am also a college graduate, and that is thanks to her showing me what it is to be strong and stay focused.
When I returned home again (this time for my career), she was there to tell my dad that I could handle myself out on the road as a police officer. After all, I was almost as tough as she was. When I think of the values she instilled in all of us, it is no coincidence that all three of her children chose professions in public service.
When I met my husband, she tried to warn him that I would likely be as tough as her to get along with. Unfortunately, I think John fell in love with her and then couldn’t listen to what she was saying. Once she realized John was committed to his sentence, she threw us the most amazing wedding I think I could have ever imagined. It was a fabulous celebration of family and friends, and I remember several times seeing the smile on her face as she enjoyed us all just being together.
When John and I married, she took on the “bonus grandma” role with his kids with ease. She helped me navigate the sometimes bumpy road of step-parenting. Sometimes, she didn’t have the answers, but she was always there to listen. Many times that was all that I needed.
Fast forward to me having the boys. Again, she was there by the time I was in recovery. After their stay in the NICU my maternity leave eventually ended and I went back to working 12 hour night shifts. She cut back on work to be their full-time caregiver on the days that I needed to sleep and John was working. She was a presence of love and security for my children, providing them the good fortune of not entering daycare until after their first birthday. I will always be grateful for that.
Every day, she did physical therapy with them, stretched them out, engaged them in developmental play, and was just all around amazing. She even came over a few times when they were infants as a 911 call for help from me and John when we were just plain exhausted.
I am so grateful that I get to have Rachel for my mother. I am thankful that my boys are also growing up with her in their lives. I can only hope that one day they will think of me and be filled with the same memories of fun, support, and love. It will mean that I was able to be just like my mom.
And since I know you might be the only person still reading this whole thing…I love you mom. Happy Mother’s Day.