Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Essential Mom

What makes a good mom? We might as well talk about "what makes a good person" . . . but still, there are some essential things a good mother does:
  • Set the expectation for how the world will treat us. While we come into the world with lots of our own nature, we do not come into the world with any self-concept. The way we learn to think of ourselves is the way we are regarded by our mothers. It's the only model we have. My mother gave us the most remarkable thing, which was her time. We sensed it when we were young, but I've grown to know it as I became older: my mother could do anything she wanted to do . . . but she chose to spend her time on us. And she pretty much expected us to be the same way. I grew up really believing I could do most anything, too. Sure, I had my share of neurosis as well (if you could do anything, you better not screw it up) but that seems a small price to pay for confidence-at-the-core.
  • Set the template for all human relationships. The relationship with your mother is the first relationship you ever have. It is the template upon which all other relationships are based. Ours was not a very touchy-feely, intimate sort of home, but there was a prevailing sense of respect and dignity. We were spoken to with respect, and we freely gave it back. I wasn't even aware of it until I was at a friend's house and I saw him behave like a total ass to his mother. I remember thinking, "I would never treat my mother that way," closely followed by, "Nor would she ever stand for it." My mom cultivated an iron-fist-in-silk-glove reputation, or what Augie would describe as: "She's a really, really nice person; just don't piss her off." That basic attitude -- to be fair to all, but nobody's doormat -- is still my ideal (though temperamentally I'm much softer than that, for all my occasional shrillness.)
  • Set the example for how to meet the world. Our parents' ways become our own. Both may parents are paragons of frugality and ingenuity, a sort of Depression-era MacGyver. I prefer to do for myself, and when I can't to do without. I save money rather than spend it. Middle-class to our bones, we are embarrassed by extravagence, unless it is particularly clever extravagence. We have faith in work.

So, what do mothers do? They are, quite literally, our World. How we see ourselves, others, and the whole of existence begins in that one essential relationship.

I think mine did a pretty good job.

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