Keep up extraordinary work, Glinda moms of the world

Janet's World

May 11, 2008|By Janet Gilbert

Mothers get a lot of bad press these days. It's disappointing that we typically only read stories about the ones who are abandoning, neglecting or otherwise harming their children, changing their identities so they can rip off a series of unsuspecting senior citizens or fleecing company accounts after years of loyal service.

In that spirit and on this Mother's Day, I'm revealing the astounding fact that I was raised by Glinda the Good.

No kidding.

She even looked like her, with wispy curls of blond hair and sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile that felt like an embrace when it shined your way. Even so, it was the inside stuff -- her essential kindness, selflessness, integrity and generosity of spirit -- that created that magic we all felt in her presence.

A college-educated teacher who stayed home to raise five children, my mother bristled when a haggy old aunt (who, in my mind's eye, bore an uncanny resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West) remarked at the surprise baby shower for my youngest sister: "Four years at Skidmore for this?"

"Education is never wasted," my mother said.

Glinda the Good never put people down; she just put them in their place.

And she could do that for my brothers and sisters and me, with just a look. She was our critic and our champion. She let us know when we didn't do enough, and when we went too far. Best of all, she hugged us frequently.

Like your mother, she probably doesn't think she is extraordinary. Like your mom, she'll probably never be a guest on Oprah or Ellen. But maybe that's not all that bad -- because it means she probably won't be a guest on The Maury Show, either.

Some of the best mom stories are not newsworthy in a national sense, but they are nonetheless the top stories of the day locally, in my view. And they happen 24/7, in homes where a mom is dedicated to the difficult, time-consuming, frustrating and unbelievably rewarding job of creating good world citizens.

I remember one night many years ago, tucking my then-toddler daughter in to bed, and bending down to kiss her goodnight after a particularly trying day of tying and retying shoes, retracing my steps in the grocery store to hunt for a lost doll and locking my keys in the minivan. I looked down at her sweet face and felt overwhelmed by love and responsibility and gratitude. I left her room, and went downstairs and called my mother.

"I finally get it," I said.

"Get what?" she asked.

"I suddenly know how much ... how much you must ... love me," I said.

My mother laughed. The circle was complete.

And this is what I have learned from her, since that epiphany of motherhood when I finally appreciated all the kindness, selflessness, integrity and generosity of spirit she freely sent my way.

Take a dinner to a friend who is struggling with an illness or personal problem. Volunteer in the public schools. Run for office or work on some sort of campaign you feel strongly about. Listen without judgment. Always be a team with your spouse. Never stop learning. Advocate for your children, or for other children who have no advocates. And hum while you work -- it's very cheery to be around.

Perfection in motherhood is impossible, as it is in any complicated, dynamic job. But if our hearts are in the right place, even the mistakes we make -- and there will be plenty -- will be eminently forgivable. What matters most is that we strive every day to create a place where children are safe and respected and loved.

Then, our children will always be able to summon us with a single thought, whether we reside across the street, the country, or the great divide. And that thought is: Home.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Glindas.

To contact Janet or hear her podcasts, visit www.janetgilbert .net.

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