Last weekend, I had the chance to go back east for a whirlwind weekend to celebrate my niece’s Bat Mitzvah. Despite the brevity of the visit, I was able to spend time with my mom. On the return flight home, I thought about my mom and motherhood in general.
My mom got her first dog 9 years ago. It is interesting how bringing a dog into ones life changes how you “parent” and how you enjoy things in general. . Quincy is a ball obsessed, high energy, and comical Boston Terrier. When I call my mom, the conversation quickly shifts to what Quincy is doing. I enjoy the detailed description on the various antics he displays for my mom’s entertainment. I crack up at the effect of my long distance, over the phone dog training. Apparently, it was not as effective as I had hoped as Quincy still believes the cue to “SIT” is “SIT SIT SIT”.
During the weekend, now armed with her smartphone, my mom was able to show me lots of pictures and video. I like how her demeanor shifts when she is talking about her dog. She seems relaxed and smiles. Dogs seem to do this for us. It is clear that Quincy has been the perfect companion.
Everyone says Motherhood is a difficult job. They also say you never know what it is like until you have a child of your own. I would have to agree with both statements. Just as dogs love us unconditionally, we strive to love our children unconditionally. This is not always an easy task. Growing up, I was a difficult teenager. Yes, I know that is extremely hard to fathom, but I was. When I was 12, my parents divorced. At that age, I did not have the capacity to comprehend the emotional strain divorce has on a parent. I was angry and I did not make life moving forward any easier for my mom. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized all the sacrifices my mother made to ensure my siblings and I always had a roof over our heads, food in the refrigerator, and clothes on our backs.
My mom gave up a career to stay home raising 3 kids and now was suddenly thrown into the workforce. She is brilliant and because she is so brilliant- yes, worth repeating again- she was able to get a job with the government and quickly propel herself up from entry level salary to the top of the pay scale ladder, taking on leadership positions. She worked very hard and it taught me that every challenge brings both opportunity or turmoil. She chose opportunity, despite the turmoil I was creating at home. She made the decision to succeed and to focus on what needed to be done to raise responsible, accountable, motivated, and goal oriented children. She may not have had the energy to deal with me at the time, but I was learning the importance of being strong, independent, and committed to do whatever it takes to make things work.
Of course, as a grandma, she is totally different, I guess all grandma’s are- but I appreciate how she has evolved over time and am grateful that I have an open and good relationship with her.
My daughter is graduating high school this year. She has spent her entire life growing up with dogs. I often joke that I raised Abby like a dog. Not really- I just learned the same techniques that worked with the dogs, actually were applicable to my parenting style as well. Of course, my reinforcements had to evolve as she matured. Watching the Little Mermaid for the 1000th time worked marvelously when she was 3. Now, filling the gas tank in her car seems to be the best reward.
My 4 “kids”
When Abby looks back on her childhood and teenage years, I don’t know what lessons she will say she learned. My hope is that I have instilled the same values my mother taught me:
Have a strong work ethic: make yourself indispensable by being the first one to show up and the last one to leave, always performing at 100% even when no one is watching.
Never Stop Learning: Life is a continual process of growth. When you stop learning, you stop growing
When challenged, roll up your sleeves and do what’s necessary for a positive outcome
Be Kind: Understand you never really know what another person’s story is in any given moment.
Surround Yourself with Positive influences: People who uplift you and never try to bring you down
Get a Dog: Dogs soften our souls, comfort us at time of distress, keep a smile on your face, force you to get out and enjoy fresh air, provide opportunity to meet lots of new people, keep you young at heart, and ensure that you are never alone.
Abby at 17 and BOLO
As a daughter, a mom to Abby, and dog mom to Henry and BOLO my life feels really good. My adult relationship with my mom has given me opportunity for reflexion and appreciation.. My relationship to my daughter is the most precious gift I have ever received. My relationship to the dogs has given me some semblance of balance and has been the driving force behind my life’s work.
There are many facets of motherhood- joyful, stressful,pride, and sad at times. In reality, everyday is mother’s day- we are the example for our children to emulate and the sole providers our dogs trust and depend upon. I treasure this responsibility and thank my own mom for giving me the solid foundation to become the person and mom I am today.
Happy Mother’s Day!