“Mommy, mommy…”

As I sit in the library watching my girls play with a new found friend, I wonder… How much of this motherhood thing is instinct or cultural training?

These four girls are taking turns doing each other’s hair, pretending manicures (my girls are being led by this older girl because they have never had a manicure nor have they seen me get one), they are all together giggling and chit chatting as only girls do. Then the youngest one finds a baby doll and it all changes.

The older girl (6) continues to want to play pretend dress up and initiates a game of hide and seek. My oldest (5) goes along and adds that they should be hiding from bad guys. My 3 year old plays along and occasionally distances herself from the rest to enjoy a quiet puzzle at the table. The youngest, 2 next week, is OBSESSED with the baby doll.

She holds her new tiny baby while cradling her head in one hand and her body in the crook of her arm. She tenderly kisses her baby’s head and rocks her to sleep with a lullaby. It’s absolutely adorable! And then her big sister grabs the baby by the neck and throws her in the air and the spell is broken.

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No longer is this a precious baby to hold and love, now she is a toy to be used for personal satisfaction. Now we can run and play with baby when we want or leave her cast aside.

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Yet even though this little baby is nothing more than a toy at the library, the littlest one still stops to cuddle her lovingly or kiss her cheek.

Does she do this because it’s what I do to her?

Is she watching and learning based on her own experiences?

What about the older girls who couldn’t care less? I know mine are still smothered in daily mama bear hugs and kisses yet they carry this baby by her ankle!

And if they are learning how to be a mom by watching me then I guess I’ve got to ask myself what kind of mom am I teaching them to be?

After all, most days I feel like I’m failing or just barely hanging on for this crazy wild ride! I almost never know what to do or how to handle things and often I’m just reacting.

No one really remembers being an infant in their own mother’s arms and not everyone is old enough to remember how mom sang and rocked a baby brother or sister… So then does it come from watching aunts/sisters/cousins or from books and tv?

Personally, I was lucky to have a mom who worked really hard raising me and I was not easy to raise. I’m temperamental and stubborn, argumentative and bossy (admittedly my kids get it from me)! So you can imagine that it was not always rainbows and sunshine, but I know that a lot of what I do as a mom has rubbed off from her, grandma, aunts and family friends…it’s a hodge podge of great moms who I’ve subconsciously watched and gleaned from over the years. But what about great moms who were not raised around other great moms? In this day and age that’s not so far fetched!

I’m sure in that case, although everyone has their ideal fictional mom, I would assume that their fictional mentor teaches them about the kind of mom they want to be.

For me, that fictional mom is Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter. It’s not her magical abilities that make Molly a great mom, the house is never “clean” or magazine perfect, yelling occurs, reprimanding happens and her kids aren’t perfect, they make mistakes/ bad decisions and get in trouble. However, regardless of what they do they know that they are loved, they respect others who may be different, they take chances and follow their dreams!

She has created a home filled with love and acceptance, where everyone works hard, plays hard and loves fully! Even if the child being mentioned hasn’t come from her womb, it doesn’t matter. It’s not important. As a mom, she lives out love, for any who need it… But don’t you dare cross her or mess with her kids! She’s powerful too!

That’s what I want. Isn’t that what Christ calls us to do? Love one another? That’s what I want to impart on my little ones.

I’m not a tiger mom, I don’t push my kids toward a culturally acceptable definition of success. I’m not a helicopter mom, afraid of letting them get hurt or be too independent. I’m not a schedule mom, I really don’t work well with strict routines. Honestly I don’t think anyone fits perfectly into one of those stereotypes… We all have our own style. This is my style… I’m not totally laid back because I still struggle with my own idea of motherhood perfection. I’m a work in progress, I’m a mess and I’m just rolling with the punches as I go.

I know that there are social scientists who visit this question but as I watch my young girls playing with this baby doll it makes me contemplative.

Will they remember the hours of reading on the couch?

Will they remember the trips to the park?

What about the morning cartoons cuddled on mommy’s lap as they vie for a spot?

Will they remember baking with mommy and afternoon tea?

Or will they remember mommy yelling because they didn’t follow directions…again… Or having to clean their rooms… Again… Or being told no because they really don’t need that ice cream/candy/toy/video game/movie?

So many blogs talk about making childhood magical or not, but I’m more worried about what kind of adult I’m raising. So back to the main question, is it instinct or are we taught how to be moms? Sure there is no instructional manual, and every child is vastly different but I for one would like to think that it’s a little bit instinct, a bunch of learned behaviors and a whole lotta rolling with the punches!

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