Becoming Our Mothers

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In the midst of stir-frying a melange of vegetables for my children’s’ lunchbox, I reach out for my phone. I shake the pan on one hand and scroll through my FB feed on the other. I set the pan down and lean on the kitchen counter as I catch up on writing-related posts. Next up comes my children’s’ school group. A concerned mom has posted late last night asking if they had a science or social test.

“Who cares?” I mutter to myself but instead of scrolling past, I read the comments. Obviously, I must care I realize.

The evenings my children burst through the door and yell no homework, I celebrate with them. I rush through their folders, signing tests, initialing their daily planner before putting it all away and looking forward to the rest of the evening. Their planner lists what is due the next day and what tests are scheduled for the week. I skim through those, nothing registering in my head except immediate deliverables (Math homework).

I should be doing more. I should be sitting with them under the living room lights rehashing what was taught in Science or Social. I should be quizzing them on whatever tests are due that week.

The truth is I live each day checking boxes, doing the bare essentials to get through. Each week, I get an email notification that my children’s grade books have been updated. I go through them like another item to check off. The numbers against each test do not register unless they are in the nineties or in the sixties or below. Even if they are low, I think I should talk to them about what was difficult but forget soon enough.

On mornings like today, it hits me with a force that every other parent out there is possibly being diligent. They are tracking what is due and preparing their children to do their best. They are arming their children with knowledge and rigor that will see them through middle and high school. I make another promise to myself albeit halfheartedly that I will do better. I will look through their folders patiently and quiz my children about what they did in class each day.

I try. I honestly do. Each day at the kitchen island as they eat their snacks, I ask them how their day was. I ask them what was good. I ask them what was bad. The answers are standard. Their days are awesome without fail. Nothing bad ever happens and even if it did it probably was their friend ignoring them at lunch or recess. They lead uncomplicated lives. At least, that is what I tell myself. On rare evenings they spill stuff that they speak about at lunch. They tell me what their friends are watching on TV and what they bring for lunch. If I am lucky enough, they tell me about how they had trouble keeping up in the gym.

I grew up without the pressure of my parents asking about my day or my scores in tests. We had conversations if I crossed the line between pass and fail. Mostly, I coasted.

We become our mothers I am told. I can see that. I am consumed by my need to feed and nurture my children. I am paranoid when they slip out of my sight. I worry when they land headfirst on the sofa that they will break their neck. I struggle when I have to let go in the swimming pool. My world is fraught with dangers that are physical and imagined. Academics do not score high on my list of concerns. I figure they will muddle their way as I did. I trust their teachers are doing what they do best, teach.

On rare mornings, I spare a thought to the other things I should be doing like worrying about grades and tests.

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