It’s Mom’s birthday today. Although her deathday was nearly ten years ago, she still bustles with aliveness to me. Parenting isn’t easy, but along with Dad, Mom managed to corral five kids into a family nice to one another. The kind of firm niceness that pretty much kept us out of trouble.
After growing up and becoming a parent myself, it felt arduous to know or capture this kind of nice.
I get peek-a-boo insights into this knowledge. Even now as a grandparent. And more often since March. Since my immediate familial members and I have been very chummy and living together steadfastly. In the same house.
In the same house where I hear just about everything.
I can tune out most sounds, except stressed, shall we say, loud speak. Eh, I mean, yelling. It happens sometimes.
For example, a few mornings ago. Parental yelling.
After which, my daughter, on the cusp of bursting tears, came to me and said, “Oh mom, it’s exhausting to yell but how do I get the kids to clean their room without whining?”
She was pretty disgusted. Probably because I stood there looking as useful as a door to a cobwebbed attic.
But, and what I’m about to type, didn’t come by means of a thought-process. I didn’t reason or recall a string of logic. I didn’t give a pep talk. I didn’t ask her, how does this make you feel, because her feelings were plain and clear. I just knew.
Niceness exists. It’s alive and multiplying. The seed within itself.
I admitted or knew, this niceness that Mom validated when she cleaned my room and did my laundry until I left for college because she knew I’d rather be working out on the farm with Dad. It’s the niceness that thrives on the power of teamwork. It’s nice to respect one another’s uniqueness yet require expanded talents, since somewhere along my childhood, Mom did get me to clean my room and do laundry.
I even sort of learned to cook, okay minimally, in between baling hay, training fruit trees, and graveling roads on the farm. But when home, I saw Mom cooking without grumbling, teaching me it was possible.
When becoming a mother myself, I put the mental plow to the ground and tilled the soil that let me take on this heritage of niceness when doing housework.
Don’t for a second think that my plowing came painlessly. We’re talking plowing a planet here. I whined, fumed at my husband, yelled, and made myself miserable for at least ten years, but one day while standing on a mountain of dirty laundry, sorting clothes and stuffing the washing machine, the word “infinite” knocked on my mind. I opened the door and snickered. Infinite laundry was translated into the possibility of infinity. Eternity. No wonder Mom is still alive to me.
As for my daughter the other morning, my response was, “Oh for Pete’s sake, I cleaned your room until you were fourteen years old.” Her children are six and three.
We smiled at one another and chuckled. Not because her kids are younger but because, it was nice.