I Am On Your Side
Mother’s Day has come and gone and I of course have been reflective. Yes. I have been thinking. I have been thinking about those mommies from Newtown. I have been thinking of mommies of those injured or killed in the Boston bombings. I have been thinking of moms who are no longer part of their children’s lives directly, but instead have been replaced by an addiction to drugs or alcohol or gambling. I have been thinking of the moms whose children are drowning in a world of mental illness with no life preserver in sight. I have been thinking of moms whose children are incarcerated, runaways, or just plain lost. I have been thinking about any mom who may be experiencing one or more of the nightmares we all have imagined or prayed wouldn’t happen to our beloved children. All weekend, I thought of them. How do they celebrate their roles as mothers? How do these moms keep moving forward when the worst tragedies have infiltrated the dreams that they had for their children and the futures they had imagined for their families?
Dear readers, we of course can look to our friend, Hindsight, to guide us and them—but not our own Hindsight—not if we are in the thick of it. No—we use the Hindsight of the moms who have gone through it and come out somehow into the light (does that ever completely happen? Perhaps it’s a dim light, but a light no less.) And since it is inevitable (it IS inevitable) that all of us at some point will hurt because our children are hurting, I think it is essential that we learn what to do from some of the masters moms who have learned to cope and even come to appreciate more their titles as mothers even though their children are troubled somehow.
The great Maya Angelou’s mother, Vivian Baxter, was a force to be reckoned with, and a stupendous example of how a mom might cope and continue to mother a child that has hit a bumpy road or even one filled with craters…
If you don’t know Maya’s story (please, please, please run out and get her collection of autobiographies…but wait until after you finish the column), you may not know that this storied poet, professor, philosopher and philanthropist’s early life was riddled with moments that might bring a mortal mother to her knees with the weight of sheer worry for her child. Maya stopped speaking when she was seven after being abused, became pregnant at 16, and made many other seedy decisions that aren’t fit to mention in a family column.
But in a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Maya credits her mother for helping her to come out of those potholes. She says, “I learned that my mother was always on my side. And that really liberated me.” When I first read these lines, I was skeptical. How is it that being on our children’s side might help them during periods of trouble? I imagined “being on their sides” as being complacent or quiet about their missteps, but I was incorrect.
Maya continues by saying, “Parents can be on the side of their children. Please—be their supporters, be their protectors and let them know that. That doesn’t mean that you indulge and condone mismanagement of the interaction. But I’m on your side—I want you to do well. I love you. That doesn’t mean I indulge you—I have sentimentality and it means I really love you and I want you to live a good life… And even when they’re wrong, it will be explained to them why they are wrong. Not just put down.”
This never-ending support is exactly what Vivian Baxter gave to Maya both when times were good and when times were bad. She tells a story that one day while walking down a crowded San Francisco street, Maya’s mother stops her and said, “You are the greatest woman I have ever met.” This simple sentence said to Maya during a trying time made her stop and think. She thought to herself, “Well, maybe I could be somebody. Suppose she is right? Suppose I do have something? Suppose I am going to be somebody?” Vivian’s support and protection never wavered in the face of many tragedies. And it this constant that Maya attributes to her fearlessness. She dared because her mother’s love gave her stability in times of uproar.
So dear mommies, dear daddies we must be fearless for our children. We must remind them time and time again of the unwavering love that we have for them, even when they are the most unlovable. We must protect them and support them and unbury their feelings of worth, especially when they are feeling worthless. Potholes are going to come on the life roads that our children drive down, heck there may even be ditches. Even though we may not like how heavy their feet seem to be on the gas pedal, even though we may not think the road they choose will lead them to a safe destination, when they careen off track, as parents, we must be there with the Band-Aids and the gauze and the aspirin. Whether figuratively or literally, we must hold them close and fiercely declare, as Vivian Baxter did so successfully with her daughter, Maya; that we are on their side.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.