When I was growing up, I studied piano. Whenever I got in trouble, I’d go to the piano and play this very sad song, Rock Me To Sleep, from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook. It was my go-to song to make my mother feel misty and guilty that she fussed at me for making hot chocolate in her Mr. Coffee — again.
It goes like this:
Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echo less shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother — rock me to sleep!
I can’t play it now. It makes me too sad. Lately, it makes me wonder what happened to society so that doing without mama — even banishing mama — is so simple and practical that it's as easy as taking her to court, proving her unfit to do what she was born to do, and convincing a judge and jury that the children and the larger family will be far better off with her out of the way.
Kids need their moms
So I'm writing about what a mom does. First, I will state for the record that my husband can out-delight me with his games and antics with the children, and he can out cook me too. I never worry for a second when I leave the house for even an extended time because he's got it all under control. He is as good with children as anyone I've ever seen.
But here is what a Mom does
Moms have an edge on patience
We teach our kids to count as we painstakingly cut up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until we've ended up with 16 pieces. We play Toddler Radio in the car when we're DYING to listen to The Shins or Sheryl Crow or Metallica or whatever we prefer, because we're never in the car alone.
Moms give children experiences
We take children to library story time, we take little boys to the ballet and expect them to appreciate it, and we take little ones to the museum when they have no clue what they're looking at. We take books everywhere, so that even in a pediatric waiting room, the kids would rather read the favorites we brought rather than handle the dog-eared commercial books on hand or even watch the TV.
We nag older kids to wrap up or at least wear sleeves, for heaven's sake. IT’S 45 DEGREES OUT and it won’t get any warmer until noon! We chase them down at the bus stop with a forgotten lunch. We've been known to drive to the school with forgotten lunches we sheepishly deposit at the front desk (so we won't embarrass the fool out of them by appearing at their homeroom door). Lunch-stalkers? Yeah, probably. We just don't want them to be hungry, is all.
Moms teach vital skills
We plunk errant kids down at the computer to do math drills until they've got it mastered. Many husbands say, "Let him flunk the test and get really scared when he faces summer school." Dads know the male mind. But we say, “Let's not resort to scare tactics that would work extraordinarily well. He really needs to know his math, and to feel some mastery of it." Dad shrugs and walks away while our kid tries to sneak off as we scour the Internet for math drill sites.
Moms counsel children
We devise clever ways to trick our teens into spilling their guts. Maybe we'll play a few lives of that too-violent video game Dad got them and while we're having fun and they're focused in the way males tend to be when they have something on their mind, they tell us.
Moms tell stories
Often we tell stories about how we grew up and what we did. Yesterday when my little girl pulled on the mini-shopping cart, we were rolling around the frozen foods section, it toppled over and so did she. It didn't hurt her, but she remained in a frozen ball of mortification for several minutes. When she finally let me pick her up, her face was as red as I've ever seen it and her eyes brimmed over with tears. I held her a moment and then said, "Susu, you know what Mommy did when she was a little girl? She drove one of those big huge shopping carts into a freestanding aisle of wine and crashed the whole thing to pieces." She laughed and we went over to the bakery to get a cookie.
These things are probably universal to most moms. We are eerily alike. We nurture. We think, we ponder, and we empathize. We over-empathize. We over-react. We kiss it and make it better. We make scary things funny. We worry about silly lullaby lyrics when we suddenly realize we're singing about a baby that falls out of a tree IN HIS CRADLE.
It’s all about a mother's essence — to make things OK. Our lives are spent making things OK and worrying If they're not. More than that, we worry that they might not be OK. We want to reassure our children that no matter what they do, and no matter how big they get, they'll have the memory of their mother’s arms, where they will always be safe and loved.
Many family courts, fathers’ groups and lawyers, not only strive toward A Nation of Motherless Children, but deprive their children of the lifetime memories of what their mothers did for them and how much they love them. Don't they remember being rocked to sleep?
Motherhood is a sacred responsibility. Motherhood needs to be protected. Mothers need to support each other. The next time you hear a mother described as unfit because of a divorce, take it with a grain of salt. Kids need good moms.
Janie McQueen is a multi-published author and career journalist. She writes columns for major metro newpapers, HopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com and LAFamily.com. Visit her website at www.janiemcqueen.com, follow her on Twitter @janiemcqueen.com.