Friday, December 12, 2014

In Defense of the Stage Mother



He stood on stage, happily singing and moving his arms in 'perfect' coordination with the words of the songs. He was obviously having fun, as I was, and I sat there several feet away from the stage, feeling proud and joyful. I stared at my second-grader the whole night. As far as my eyes were concerned, there was only one spotlight and it was all on him.

Remember those advertisements or movie scenes where the parent looks at their grown child but actually sees the younger or 'baby' version of that child instead? I had that experience last night. As I stared intently at my son, with a smile and obvious sense of wonder plastered on my face, I was actually toggling between seven- and three-year old Noah. I kept wondering how this 'baby' became so amazing and never fails to keep me in a perpetual state of awe. I clearly felt so star-struck, only it was far better than that, far more real because I knew I was in awe of someone I TRULY love as unconditionally as my humanity allows.


After each song he completed on stage, especially after singing his solo part, my husband and I noticed how Noah would glance at us, clearly trying to see how much approval we were expressing. I raised my arms to show him I was clapping hard and kept showing him a double thumbs-up. We knew it wasn't perfect. Noah knew that. But every child on that stage gave their very best and clearly did it with all the joy in their hearts and that made it so perfect and memorable. The entire gym was simply full of love last night.

How we appeared as a family last night makes it hard to believe that just two nights ago, hearts broke and tears were shed. Noah told me something that he remembered doing in school a couple of months ago, something that really disappointed me, and so I gave him a long lecture. If you knew me, you'd know that a long lecture means a LONG lecture and that I can belabor a point to death, with as many versions imaginable, and then do it all over again. (Thanks to 7 years of teaching college kids). That's how long it was. Too long for a seven year old brain, admittedly.

He said I made him feel stupid when I correct him. I said it's not my intention and that it's my responsibility to correct him and guide him because I love him. I told him how disappointed I was and that what he did was unacceptable in my books. He promised not to do it again and to always do his best next time. We ended with our usual Maya Angelou line, "When you know better, you do better".

After all is said and done, the fact is that I was disappointed and so was my son. And we both know that mistakes will continue to happen and that we will continue to disappoint and hurt each other because that's just how it goes.

Love and Disappointment is a package deal.

If you want loveto love and be lovedyou must accept that you will be disappointed and will disappoint, because love can only be possible if you welcome vulnerability. It will hurt tremendously, and this is why it's important that when you love someone, you assure them that your love is stronger than your disappointment. This is why it's important that as parents, we show our children as much unconditional love as we can so that as they grow up and learn to love others, they will also know that disappointment does not end love. It's not the period to any of love's narratives.

My son is not, and will never be, perfect. Not even in my eyes. As for me, well, let me say that there are countless days in a year when I ask myself if God was sure He did the right thing in making me a parent. I often wonder how much therapy my son would eventually need because he ended up with me as his mother.

But in spite of these feelings of inadequacy, all our mistakes and hurts, I am certain my son knows that for me, he is and will always be front and center; that I will always hold a spotlight for him, ready to flood his life with as much love and illumination as he needs. In this sense, I know now that every mother who does her best to love unconditionally plays the role of the best stage mother there is. We all want the same thing and that is for our children to shine in life as they play the role of the best version of themselves. It won't be perfect, but hopefully it will play out with immeasurable joy.

8 comments:

  1. This is beautiful Joy, and you captured that feeling of pride in our children's accomplishments so well. We still tell our boys that no matter what they do, we will love them!

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    1. Yes, we truly always will, Lana! Thank you for your thoughts and loved that you enjoyed this!

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  2. Beautiful! I especially loved that last paragraph.

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    1. Thank you so much, Nina. I'm honored you loved that part :-)

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  3. It is those feelings of inadequacy that ensure that you are a good mom. We all feel that way and we all belabor a point we sould've dropped 15 minutes ago. We're all imperfect humans trying to do better even after we know better...

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    1. So true, Marie. I guess without the doubts, we'll never grow and strive to be better at it. :-) Thanks!!

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  4. Being a mum is all about making mistakes anyway. I wouldn't sweat it. That said, just like you, nothing had prepared me for the roller coaster of emotions that I am experiencing.

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    1. None of us are ever truly prepared for this roller coaster Muriel. Hang in there my friend!

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