Mothers and mothering

Mother’s Day was this month and advertisers went nuts lauding mothers with a push toward candy, bouquets and flowery sentiments. People waited hours in line for the Mother’s Day buffet, ran flowers to homes, hospitals and sometimes, cemeteries.

There were UN level negotiations on whether a young mother should enjoy “her” day or glorify her own mother and mother-in-law? Many sat in church pews and heard sermons extolling their virtues as mothers.

Our own church service was no different. As our pastor asked who among us had more than one mother — I saw my own kids smile and raise their hands — and the same with others all around. I have long been an advocate of the village raising a child. My children have long benefited from having more “mothers” than they could count on two hands and I am eternally grateful for that.

Joy

Mothering is the greatest gift I have ever received. Easily for the first year after our firstborn’s birth I woke up every morning joyous, as if I had won the lottery. I could not quite believe it. I loved it always.

I like to think I’m a pretty on-top-of-it parent. We have made parenting job one, and I’m proud of that.

I also make no bones about the fact I could not do this without the many people in our lives who have guided us — or our children — along the way.

The friends, family, community leaders, teachers, coaches and fellow parents who have provided humor, guidance, role modeling and advice. The coaches who pushed them harder. The teachers who said “you can do better.” The fellow parents who stopped what they were doing, sat quietly and listened to concerns in the moment and didn’t say “can’t you talk to your parents about this later.” All of these people are giving back not only to my children but to the social fabric of society.

I call it “Lifeguard Rules.” Just as a parent can say 100 times “don’t run by the pool” and somehow be ignored until the lifeguard gives a whistle and one stern look and is instantly obeyed, so too is it somehow better to receive guidance from someone who isn’t your parent.

Others

I often wonder — and worry — on Mother’s Day about those left out. There are so many women who would have liked (loved) to be mothers, and weren’t. Others who made a conscious choice but maybe, however briefly, still wonder. I have a friend from afar who said Mother’s Day is a hard holiday for her. She did not have children and has never been wished “Happy Mother’s Day.” She said she knows it is “silly,” but sometimes it still hurts.

The silly thing? She’s a leader, role model and community activist. She, along with other friends in our lives just like her, has served in a variety of capacities to make their communities and region better and safer for all. She joins a legion of teachers, neighbors, friends and relatives who provide guidance and role modeling for the children around her. She’s “parenting” every day and doesn’t seem to realize it.

Children

In my own life I “parent” not only my own children but, I am proud to say, many others. I like that some of my children’s classmates and friends call me “Mama Seabolt.” They call, text, or reach out if they can’t find their own mothers. I am the keeper of the coats, water bottles, first aid, support, congratulations and, of course, photographs. Everyone’s a star when Mrs. Seabolt is behind the lens.

I like that they will call me (O.K., text me) if they cannot find their own parents or need to get word. “My phone’s dead.” “Don’t worry.” “Have you seen my mom?”

They seek advice on everything from cupcake recipes to college. A large clutch of “my” kids are graduating this year and it’s all I can do not to cry a little too. I worry if “we” have prepared them enough for the world.

Whether you are the gruff one that demands better behavior, the kindly one with a hug when their own parent isn’t around, the backup parent who is good for coaching or commiseration, or you fulfill some other role in a young person’s life when their own parent can’t — or won’t — you deserve thanks. You don’t have to have raised a child to have helped parent one.

Village

I honestly could not parent effectively without the advice, efforts, role modeling and input of a variety of family, friends and community members. Whether you are parenting your own — or providing insight and role modeling to others, I wish you a blessed and happy “mothering” day on one special Sunday in May and every other day too.

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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