I am lying in bed next to Betty, and as the snow falls outside I am thinking about Mother's Day. I know that many women don't particularly look forward to this day because the praise lavished on them feels false or unrealistic — if not for all women at least for some. But as I lie here and start to hear my little monsters stir in the other room, I feel like I should write a couple of things about the most important mothers in my life.
The more I live the more I realize what a critical role my Mom played in my development. When Kimball and Anahí were diagnosed with autism, and as I learned more and more about the condition, I came to realize that much of what I saw in my children I can also see in myself. Someday I will write more about this, but for now I can say that given my own set of neuro/psychological peculiarities, it is safe to say that had I been raised in a different household, things certainly would have turned out very different for me.
Mom did homeschool with my siblings and me — not because she thought we were messed up, but because she loved teaching and felt like it was the right thing to do. Homeschool was perfect for me because I was able to learn at my own pace and in my own way, and I was surrounded by people who loved and supported me all throughout the day. I also had built-in friends in my siblings and my cousins. I have been blessed over the years to develop friendship with many wonderful people, but to this day my siblings and cousins with whom I did homeschool are my very best friends. They know I am weird and they love me for it (at least that's what I tell myself).
My mother worked hard to keep my life simple and active. In fact, the more I learn about Brain Balance the more I realize that my own home growing up was pretty close to a Brain Balance home. We ate close to a whole foods diet (lots of fresh produce from our garden), had limited screen time, and I played lots of sports with my brothers. I did have lots of time to read, but when I wasn't reading I was playing hard with my brothers, my cousins, and a few neighbor friends. I remember wishing I could have a Nintendo, and now I realize what a critical decision it was by my parents not to have game consoles in the house. They seem to have intuitively known what was right and wrong for their kids independent of what other families were doing, and they had the courage to raise their kids in the way they saw fit despite pressures from others.
Thankfully, I married someone with those same qualities. Betty has the faith to find out what is best for our family and the courage to do it. Once she knows that something is right for our kids she is absolutely dogged in her pursuit of that thing. Her persistence with Brain Balance impresses me every day. Not only is she interested in getting the exercise sessions in, she wants them to be quality sessions as well. While I am often happy just to survive another day, she reminds me of the importance of staying in gear. Often long after I feel like I can't do more and am ready to check out for the day, there is Betty preparing meals for tomorrow or doing another load of laundry. Watching Betty work on behalf of our family makes me want to be a better husband and father.
Someone once said of Betty that she is sweetness and light. I agree, but would add that she also has a spicy kick. Despite her fears she has stared marriage, motherhood, and even autism in the face and continued on. It has not always been easy for her, and those who know her well have seen the emotional and physical toll that our experiences have sometimes had on her. With her intelligence and work ethic she could have done anything she wanted, and I am amazed and grateful that she has consistently chosen the un-glamorous and sometimes lonely — but absolutely vital — path of a mother and homemaker. I love her and I will always be grateful for her companionship and love.
Our branch president at church sometimes reminds us that we need to be able to distinguish between things that are crucial and things that are vital. The first time I heard this I thought he was crazy, but the more I think about it the more sense it makes.
Once there was a bird who was flying through the air chasing a bug that he was going to eat for dinner. They were flying at a high speed down a road into oncoming traffic. At the last second the bug darted to the side and the bird smashed into windshield of an oncoming truck -- dying instantly.
Some story, right? But the point of the story is actually pretty profound.
That bird was chasing dinner. It was a good thing, some would even say crucial for its survival. But there was something even more important than that food, something vital to the bird's very existence that when neglected, resulted in the bird's demise.
I'm grateful that both my mother and my wife are able to distinguish between the good or even potentially crucial things that they could be doing and the vital things that they must do.
And finally, a word on the idea of the so-called “Supermom.” (This may be weird, but it's on my mind so here goes). I'm no expert, but I believe that Supermom must be a derivation of Superman, and I frankly don't buy it. I've read a few differnet comics, but Superman has always been uninteresting to me because his superpowers make him practically invulnerable and nearly all-powerful. I don't believe that the women we sometimes flippantly call Supermoms are invulnerable, nor that they are all powerful. If we are to make superhero comparisons, let us compare our mothers to someone like Batman who carries the scars of every encounter he has ever had. Batman, despite a total lack of superpowers, is able to face each battle with courage and wits and strength that are extraordinary but very human – very mortal. I have seen both my mother and my wife cry in pain and weep in frustration and carry the physical and emotional scars of every child. And yet they they persist in spite of it all. To call a mother a Supermom seems to me to cheapen the experience. These women are real and they carry on in spite of their weakness – and that makes them extraordinary.
I don't know what I did in my previous life to deserve to have such women in my life, but I thank God every day for the blessing of having them.