My Family is Just Right for Me

When my daughter, Caitlin, asked why her pre-school playmate, Monica, had two mommies, and no daddy, I asked her to listen to a song. I slipped a Barney CD into the SUV’s car stereo, punched in song number eight, My Family’s Just Right for Me. 

“Play it again.” She asked once it finished and sang along almost on key.

Having heard the song at least three hundred and ten times, I sang too. When it finished, I lowered the volume. “Families are like your box of Crayola crayons, they come in different colors and sizes. Megan’s daddy doesn’t live with her, but she has a family, it just doesn’t looked like ours.”

“She has Nana and Granddad and us. We’re a family.” She sang out from her car seat.

“Yes, we are a family.”

There were no more questions about Monica’s mommies. I dug out the CD a few years later when my son asked the same question. No one sings acceptance better than a purple dinosaur. I still utter silent halleluiahs to PBS and the creators of the purple savant. As my children grew and life took the three of us outside of his playground, I wished there was a Barney for all occasions and each of the seasons of my children’s lives.

A mom job doesn’t come with a how to manual. She doesn’t know the answers to the questions she asks of herself. She doesn’t know if she has done enough, or if what she’s done is good enough. It’s not like opening a box of Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix, pouring the mix into the bowl, cracking the eggs, adding the oil, baking for thirty-seven minutes, cooling, and then frosting with butter cream. Being a mom isn’t as exact as one, two, three, and POOF! All done and ready to go.

It’s a job with no quitting time and goes on until the heart stops beating, with no report card or quarterly evaluation.  She looks to her children for a sign of a job well done, but as the sun rises and sets each day, so does the child. It’s hard to gauge positive outcome from day-to-day because of perpetual motion. A child moves forward indefinitely without exhibiting the slightest indication if our instruction has taken root. We do a lot of wishing and hoping.

I’ve logged eighteen years as a Mom and continue to strut around on wide-wall training wheels. Motherhood doesn’t slide over my body as easily as a La Perla slip. It’s feels more like a pair of Levis slipping over hips that have given birth twice, there is a lot of tugging and swearing. The answers I need are not always inside of me. I continue to reach outside of myself for answers to their questions of life:

  • What’s behind the moon?
  • How do I create an Eco system inside a shoebox for my science project?
  • What’s an Eco system, anyway?
  • Why did Granddad have to die?
  • Is there really a God?
  • What matters more, loving one person or many?
  • Why are boys and girls so different?

It’s a tough jig being a parent, much harder than sustaining an Eco system inside of a shoebox. In all these years, I have never known from one day to the next if I was doing a good job, if I was answering their questions accurately, if I was providing the best possible advice. Motherhood is as deliciously seductive as the boxed cake mix but ever so slightly more complex. Being a mom requires nothing less than MacGyver-esque skills. You do what you can with a paper clip and the gum wrapper you find in the back of your too tight Levis. Later, you hope you got it right.

I’ve had my share of bad mothering moments, said the wrong thing, yelled when I should have counted, and took up the wrong battle. It’s not a regret and nothing I change even if Merlin himself was standing before me offering author fame, a villa in Barcelona, and the lover in one of my novels. Even if he offered me all of that INSTEAD of being Caitlin and Max’s mom, I’d have to say….. NO. (OK, I confess I’d probably ask him to take me on the same journey the ghost of Christmas past did for Scrooge. I’m human. I’d want to know about the lover.) Sure, I’ve had my share of unfavorable mothering faux pas, but for every Yin, I’ve had exceptionally brilliant Yang moments. Maybe once or twice, I’ve even exceeded Harriet Nelson’s bar of excellence.

Baby Boys

I suspect most moms can relate to the pendulum swing of motherhood. We swallow the bad with our cold coffee. And when it’s good we don’t always remember to thank our children for making our jobs worthwhile, but we should.  I did this past weekend, and it felt good.

If you’re a mom give yourself a pat on the back for all that you do. If you’re a woman on the quest to define who want to be, remember how you arrived at this moment of personal freedom. Even if you didn’t like your mom all that much, she gave you spirit to go the distance.

Do you have a personal best you’d like to share?


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I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

44 thoughts on “My Family is Just Right for Me

    • Hi Sondra, thanks kindly. It’s a wordpress plug in. I see that your use blogger so the plug in I used will probably not work. I’m sure blogger has something similar, but as I use WP, I can’t help. Sorry!

  1. I love that picture of you and Caitlin! So pretty! This post is so perfect because just yesterday my daughter made a comment about how boys can’t get married. I don’t even know how she came to that thought, but my husband and I looked at each other and didn’t know what to say to that. My husband settled on, “It depends which state you’re in”. Of course she thought he was kidding, but we weren’t sure how to approach this subject. I’ll have to play this song for her. :)
    Kelly Hashway recently posted….Monday Mishmash 5/28/12My Profile

    • Kelly- that made me laugh (your husband’s answer). The number of times my kids left me speechless is in the hundreds of thousands. Worse, is when you are trying to be serious about something and they make you laugh. My son is famous for getting off with a laugh. He has always been the legal eagle and joke cracker, all one-liners perfectly time. I don’t think he’s ever truly gotten in trouble because he has me laughing. You can find the Barney episodes on YouTube (one and two), it’s all about family. It’s a favorite picture of mine as well.

      • You guys are a lot more tolerant of that purple dinosaur than I was!!! My children (when small) were traumatized by my “Dysfunctional Barney” song:

        I need you/you need me/ We’re a dysfunctional family
        With a great, big hug, Misunderstanding you…
        Won’t you say you need me, too!

        However, my children are living proof of what you say, Brenda. Children are wonderfully adaptable and forgiving, and I am going to thank them tonight for being so darn great. (I expect eye-rolling, but that’s cool). My daughter (now 16) keeps trying to straighten out a certain paternal unit on the same-sex marriage thing.

        Maybe I should play him the Barrney song???
        Helen W. Mallon recently posted….Help Me Choose a Title–Prizes Galore!My Profile

        • Helen – I think kids come around in their own time. Before it was cliche, I preached ‘coexist’ to my children. We are all the same under our skin, bone and blood. I still struggle with the need for some to want us all to conform to a specific way of being – there is no one way. As for your song, good interpretation. Every family has some sort of dysfunction. The hope is to realize it and work through so it’s not a life controlling habit or emotion.

  2. Beautifully and poignantly written as always dear Brenda, I just love reading your writing, it sets the bar high for me. As to being a parent, there’s enough yin and yang in my parenting moments to make me the poor, confused, bufuddled, enlightened, mystified, estatic, inspired, and gloriously blessed woman I am!!
    Elizabeth Young recently posted….He followed.My Profile

    • Elizabeth, many thanks for your words, for sharing your poetry with me, for always coming back. Trust me it’s mutual. I am equally touched by your verse. Hugs, my dear.

  3. pamela bono

    Brenda..You write with such passion and vulnerability!! No matter the subject I can feel the subject! Carry on!!!

  4. it’s a very beautiful post Brenda and you are a great mother!!. i can’t think now of any situation I can tell about. Today my mind is completely Blank, but what I know is that when the moment come and I need to reply to one of their questions, the answer comes alone without having to think about it. I sometimes wonder where it came from :)
    Nikky44 recently posted….Heart-SistersMy Profile

    • Thanks, Nikky, I think most days my monkeys would say, “yes, she’s not bad, but she does nag about stuff like homework, behave in public, make me proud, and so on…” No worries, I have blank moments all the time. At the moment, I am procrastinating.

    • Becky, I don’t really know any other way of writing to be honest. I tell you there have been a few days when I struggled with how to. Being a parent isn’t a job to be taken lightly.

  5. Brenda you are a wonderful mother and a phenomenal writer… I admire you for both these traits (and accomplishments). My daughter’s a tween and my boys are teenagers so I’m having a little more yin than yan and will be strutting on wide-wall training wheels (loved that!) for quite a while more. Great post!
    Astra recently posted….Earth: The Pinhead of the Universe. Making me … what?My Profile

    • Blushing, Astra. I have one 18 year old and a 14 year old. My son is easier in some respects, but more challenging. He isn’t as forthcoming with the inner workings of his mind, which I promised I’d always respect. I am always findings to pry info out of without appearing to do so.. darn tough. For what it’s worth, there hasn’t been a day since I donned the motherhood persona that I haven’t learned, thus the wide-walls. Thanks much, you have no idea how far a good word travel inside of my writer’s heart.

  6. If only every young mother-to-be could read and absorb your words, we could maybe look forward to a generation of women who weren’t beating themselves up for not being perfect mothers. Alas, I know it was a journey for me to come to the realization that there’s no such thing. Fortunately, I instilled the notion in my kids early that I, too, am a mere human being despite my mad skills in the kitchen. Yes, they may worship me if they want to, but they must also expect me to screw up royally from time to time.

    kario recently posted….Memorial Day Honors for DadMy Profile

    • Kario – I wish I knew what I know now when I was a new mom. Being a woman isn’t an exact science, what new mom thinks it can be is bonkers (I know, I am a former crazy mom). Somewhere after the second month of no sleep I relaxed and went with the flow. The only practical advise I’d ever offer a new mom is to learn the most important word – consistency and routine– OK two words. Of course, it helps a lot to listen first, be considerate, and give love freely. I am keen to hear more about your mad skills in the kitchen. Sounds divine. Thank you kindly, btw.

  7. I had my first child at 21. Then I had my 2nd at 24. They both turned out more or less fine with some rough patches. I sometimes think they did it despite me. The two kids are totally different. My son is a lawyer and partner at a big Sacramento law firm. My daughter is a company owner. They are both delightful, funny, and smart. But they are not alike. I find that interesting. I love being “friends” with them now.
    Linda Medrano recently posted….Bedroom TalesMy Profile

    • Linda, my two are equally different. I’ve not crossed over the friend category just yet, but one day. I hadn’t planned on being a mom, or getting married, but here I am. Life is not full unless there are rough patches, it refines our character and gives us moxie, don’t you think? I’m sure my two will have their share of tumbles, but it’s part of life.

  8. I am not a parent yet. I do have nieces and nephews and godchildren, but I recognize that that’s not the same energy as parenting your own child. I know from my experiences with my wonderful Mom that even after parenting me and my siblings for all these years, she continues to learn how to parent. She grows into her Mom shoes every single day, and somehow she manages to do it with what I see as astonishing Grace. The three of us, my brother, sister and I, could not be more different if we had set out with that intention. And my Mom raised us by herself, which is even more of a miracle in my eyes. Somehow she accomplished it without losing her sanity and we all turned out pretty well.

    I have often said that if I can manage to be half the person my Mom is, I will consider my life to be one well lived. She doesn’t see herself in this dynamic spotlight, of course, but I do. I see the truth of all those years of love and wisdom, mistakes and flubs, laughter and keeping on keeping on reflected in her smile.

    – Dawn
    Dawn recently posted….Snow pawsMy Profile

    • Dawn, that is a wonderful tribute to your mom (send it to her) we moms love things little nuggets. They make our days and nights, too.

  9. Love the “tugging and swearing.” I also chuckled at the questions, as my kids continue to surprise me with theirs.

    I’m a stepmom, having jumped in when my twins were 17. They do not have a relationship with their mother, so I was “it.” At 46, I found myself a new mom and utterly clueless.

    Numerous co-workers helped me navigate this new and confusing world, and my husband’s mother was a godsend, providing context and perspective when I needed it. I also found a deeper relationship with my own parents as I gained an understanding of their world. It has been powerful, turbulent, rewarding, and exhausting — all of which you expressed and more. I thank you for capturing motherhood so beautifully.
    Nadine Feldman recently posted….Indie Books? Help for Writers? Visit Rogue Books!My Profile

    • I remember you are a step mom, Nadine. I can’t imagine jumping in when the kids were 17, that must have been a struggle. I had enough trials and started with mine right out of the box. The best advice I ever had was from my own mom, which is kind of scary, but she did tell me when my daughter was born to relax and not be so frantic, to toss out the books and let my kids personalities determine how to be a parent. She promised me I would make mistakes, and when I did, to move on and try again. Thanks much for you kind words.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Terri. It feels like a tug now and again, which I’m sure you can attest. Looking forward to visiting with you as well.

  10. What a nice post about families and motherhood. Your children ask great questions. When you do get around to responding to them, I’d like to know the answers, too! Happy Mothering, Brenda. You’re an amazing mother!
    Monica recently posted….An Artful LifeMy Profile

    • What a sweetie you are Monica, and those answers to the questions were dicey. Of course, regardless of what I may counsel they will ultimately make up their own minds. This past weekend I did feel kind of good. My house is full, and life is good.

  11. Oh, lady, motherhood. Boy, was I totally unprepared for what awaited me! I’ve always compared dealing with kids with going ten rounds with Riddick Bowes–you never know what to expect and there’s always the risk of being knocked out. Most definitely, it’s not for the faint of heart. Yes, it brings moments of joy, but it also brings grief, confusion, and frustration. After all these years, I’ve learned there are times you have to let go. Let go and hope that what you’ve taught your children is enough to help them make the right decision; the right choices. There are times when you will agree with what they decide and others, where you’ll want to bang your head against the wall and say, why, God, why? Recently the Son told me he’s exploring the possiblity of becoming a tattoo artist. This from a soon to be college senior, majoring in Communications, fluent in Spanish and English, and in the process of learning German and Dutch. I wanted to slap him–hard. But instead, I said, “Honey, you’re old enough to make your own decisions. I’m confident you’ll do the right thing. And if you’re happy. I’m happy.” Dear Lord, someone pass me a Xanax. I’m hopeful this will be another “ninja” phase. My mother’s heart tells me it is. The rest of me is not so sure. Barney was a favorite in our house too. The Son absolutely loved him. I can still see and hear us singing, “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family…” Great post, lady! :)

    • Bella – one think I enjoy about your blog is your honesty and straight talk about the SO, the FAMILY, and about being a mom. You have a voice enjoyed by all. Thanks for finding minutes in your hectic life to stop by. Now, on to the son. OMG. NO. WAY. Like you I would have said the same thing, but only after breathing in a bag and downing a glass of wine, maybe two. He will find his way one way or another. Nothing you can do until he gets on the right path for him. Thanks kindly, as always.

  12. Enjoyed your momming . . . and your tagging. I have over twenty years of momming on you and I would have used the same examples from Betty Crocker to Harriet Nelson–although she might have had to beat out Donna Reed. I have over twenty years on you but we are much the same. Moms haven’t changed all that much eventhough the media doesn’t know us anymore. I can’t think of one Mom on TV that would be a good example. We simply aren’t in these days.

    • Thanks kindly, Jean, appreciate your sharing. I think motherhood is basically the same as it always was, the challenges are the same, but the staying of the cultural shifts and demands on our children and us, is where we work a little harder. However, the same principals apply.

  13. “I’ve logged eighteen years as a Mom and continue to strut around on wide-wall training wheels. Motherhood doesn’t slide over my body as easily a La Perla slip. It’s feels more like a pair of Levis slipping over hips that have given birth twice, there is a lot of tugging and swearing.” These words, classic!
    “Being a mom requires nothing less than MacGyver-esque skills. You do what you can with a paper clip and the gum wrapper you find in the back of your too tight Levis. Later, you hope you got it right.” Perfect!
    I do pat myself on the back Brenda. And I applaud myself for being the mom I am. And Deedee too 😉
    This article is fabulous; I tweeted.
    Debra recently posted….Sitzfleisch and FlashMy Profile

    • I am glad to hear, Debra. I am glad to see you virtually once again. Thanks much for the Tweet, I benefited for you well wishes. I do think we mothers have to shout to the heavens again. We’re kind of amazing.

  14. k~

    Motherhood was the biggest, most wonderful blessing I have ever known. As a single mother, there were challenges, but the blessings far outweighed the worries.

    The “personal best” would have to be moments that could have been remembered as dark places in a past, and instead became adventures, and journeys that were fun to share. My son had fun growing up, and he knew that no matter what we were doing, I loved him.

    We used to roast marshmallows over candles, when it was too cold to go camping. Blankets became tents over couches, chairs, and tables where I would tell him stories galore. We made castles in the mud, because we didn’t live near the beach. We had fun Brenda, and he remembers it.
    k~ recently posted….A Dream Between (100 Word Song)My Profile

    • K- I loved the marshmallow roasting over candles. I am not a camper (HATE IT, no room service) but we have living room picnics all the time. I hadn’t thought about it before until you mentioned it, but some of my best mom moments were in the dark. My husband became ill about ten years back (long ugly story and lives in remission) but in the early years the kids and I bonded and found strength in one another.. you’re right, we find our grace in unexpected places. I am excited for you to finish the book you mentioned, will be a treasure.

  15. I have two teenagers, one of which is a special needs child. I would have never imagined in a million years how difficult parenting could be at times. I certainly understand something my mother would tell me on countless occasions: “Someday, my dear, you will understand…”
    I can still hear her saying that even though she has been gone 16 years now. How very right she was!
    Mary Hudak-Colllins recently posted….‘Made From Scratch’ Monday – Week 18My Profile

    • Hi Mary – My mom would tell me, “I can’t wait until you’re a mother, then you’ll understand…” She was SO right. Then again, I’d not change the experience for anything in the world. Thanks kindly for stopping by.

  16. Oh, Brenda, you have described the experience of motherhood to a “T” here. We do our best and hope and pray that it’s the good stuff we do and say that sticks with our children. I know I made plenty of mistakes with mine, but as adult children who tell me often that they love me, I think I did alright.
    Thanks for this exquisitely written and inspiring post!
    Martha Orlando recently posted….Meditations of my HeartMy Profile

    • Hey there Martha, girl. Motherhood is simply trial and error, the grace is found in admitting when we are wrong and doing what we can to right side it. Regardless, they grow up and survive.

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