All women feel the pressure when they become mothers. They feel the pressure to measure up to a certain standard that was set before them by a mother, a grandmother, a family friend, or perhaps, all of the above. I felt it due to the wonderful example set by my own mother. But I have recently come to better understand the reasons why my mother was so good at being a mother.
Two reasons: I was a girl and an only child.
I am raising two boys who fight with each other and constantly have their hands in their pants. They make messes that they never clean up willingly and love to use my couch as a trampoline. They pee all over the toilet seats and usually put their underwear on backwards.
My mother has no idea how easy she had it.
I would never even think of behaving this way when I was a child. Probably because I knew that my parents would kill me if I did, but also partly because it just wasn’t in my nature to be wild.
Oh, but how I longed to be.
I had friends who were wild and fearless, and I was jealous of how free-spirited they seemed. Growing up I had a friend who used to jump over his neighbor’s fence and swim in their pool without permission. Another friend of mine used to climb a tree in his front yard whenever his mom would order a pizza. He’d just sit there and wait for the Domino’s Pizza delivery man to walk up just so he could jump out of the tree and scare him. They were always doing crazy things that always got them in trouble, but they kept doing them anyway.
They were boys.
None of my girl friends did these sorts of things. When I would go to a girl friend’s house, we were so quiet our mothers often forgot we were even there. We would play things like school and dress up and pretend. We would make up dances to the Annie soundtrack and make friendship pins to go on each other’s Keds. One of the craziest things we ever did was sneaking a couple of chewable Flintstone’s vitamins in the pantry for a little sugar rush. Other than that, we were perfectly well-behaved.
We were girls.
Mothering girls is simple. With girls you can simply get out the craft box, leave the room, and return to find beautiful creations and a minimal mess. I would never even think about leaving my boys alone with our craft box. I found out the hard way that bottles of glue, pipe cleaners, and brothers don’t make for a good combination.
But the majority of my childhood friends were boys. I grew up learning to appreciate Hot Wheels and watching “Dukes of Hazzard”. I was Princess Leia to their Luke Skywalker and learned that I had to ride faster on my bicycle if I wanted to keep up. Now that I have two boys of my own to raise, I can see that those friendships were my training ground for motherhood.
I’m not saying that mothering girls doesn’t have its share of challenges. I remember my two cousins, who were sisters, having fights like nothing that I had ever seen. When they got mad at each other the yelling would start and before I knew it I was sitting ring side to a 1970’s female version of Ultimate Fighting Championship. Someone always ended up in tears. Usually it was me.
My cousin’s sibling issues were good for me to witness. As an only child, I had no understanding of sibling relationships and they showed me the good, the bad, and the ugly. Once again, it was good training for what I would later experience as a mother. I’m not sure if my cousins would agree.
So far, I haven’t gotten a call from the neighbor telling me that my son is in their pool swimming uninvited and the brotherly fights (which are often) have produced little to no bloodshed. When their friends come over to play it is always loud and messy and wild and I’m starting to get used to it.
Just beware if you deliver a pizza to our house. There’s no telling what might happen.