By Heather O.
I was talking to a friend the other day who has a marriage that is, to put it mildly, difficult. There are a lot of issues going on in the relationship, not the least of which is that his wife has been physically ill for some time. It’s not the kind of illness that puts you in the hospital for long periods of time (although she has been hospitalized recently), but just a combination of problems that make her feel basically crappy all the time. The result, he said, is that he feels strongly that his daughter, now 5, has never had a “normal” mother.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about that conversation, and what it means to be a “normal” mother, and provide a “normal” childhood for my son. Are there certain aspects of a relationship with a mother that one should be able to point to and say, “There. That’s normal. Every kid should get at least that”? Does the same thing apply to childhood? My childhood was filled with memories of playing games with my siblings, riding my bike, taking long, long drives in the car from California to Utah every year, and reading the Chronicles of Narnia with my mother, perched on her enormous king-sized bed with my 2 sisters. Are these things normal? I’d like to think they are.
But since talking to this friend, I find myself doublechecking the things that I do as a mother, and the experiences I’m providing for my son. Yesterday I let him run barefoot to the pool. I found myself asking, “Would a normal mother do this?” I let him run around naked at home after swimming to help dry him off before I put dry clothes on him. I got a little short with him when he started whining at me. I let him eat popcorn on the carpet while watching a video. Do other mothers do this?
I guess that’s really the question I should be asking: How many other mothers are doing what I’m doing? If there is a large enough number of mothers screwing up the way I’m screwing up, well, then, it must be normal!
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