Calling Jane’s Mother

March 14, 2009 @ 1:16 pm | Filed under:

Sometimes I tell Alice—jokingly, or wistfully, depending on what the day’s been like—that I really miss Jane’s mother.

You know, Jane’s mother: that endlessly patient young woman, so full of energy and high ideals, the woman who would willingly spend hours playing farm animals on the living-room carpet, or who would wait calmly in a hot parking lot while little Jane climbed all over the car, fiddling with knobs and buttons, because she wasn’t ready to get into her carseat yet.

Jane’s mother always let Jane help make dinner, tiny hands shredding lettuce leaves or helping stir the big pot, even though it took ten times as long.

Jane’s mother threw back her head and laughed with genuine amusement when infant Jane got into the big package of toilet paper and scattered shreds of it all over the room.

Seriously, Jane’s mother was so patient she was practically a saint.

Huck’s mother, now, no one will hasten to canonize her. She dreads the hopeful words, “Can I help with dinner, Mommy?” when the speaker is under seven because she knows the “help” will set the meal back half an hour and double the cleanup time. She has been known to bark at children to hurry up and get buckled—has been known, even, to scoop up an exploring toddler and plop her ruthlessly and with no remorse into the hated carseat, dodging flailing limbs to fasten buckles, because somebody was supposed to be somewhere ten minutes ago and she hasn’t got time for this nonsense.

(Jane’s mother would have been horrified to hear a parent apply the word “nonsense” to anything a child did or did not wish to do.)

Jane’s mother read Jane about thirty books a day. Huck’s mother says, “Hey Jane, would you mind reading to Rilla for a while?”

Jane’s mother did the vacuuming with Jane slung on her hip or her back. Huck’s mother…well, she knows there’s a vacuum cleaner in the house somewhere.

Jane’s mother bought fresh produce at the farmer’s market, or had it delivered by the organic delivery service. Huck’s mother thanks God for frozen peas and canned peaches. She doesn’t even always check to make sure it’s “lite syrup” in the can. She just grabs whatever’s on sale and hurls it into the cart without breaking stride.

Huck’s mother is totally afraid to reread the heartfelt treatise on patience that Rilla’s mother wrote this time last year. Rilla’s mother, too, had been remembering what a peach (in lite syrup?) Jane’s mother used to be, and to give her credit, Rilla’s mom had a pretty good streak going there for a while, after writing that post: for a glorious couple of months, Jane’s mother made a comeback.

Then she went to Barcelona, and it’s possible she stayed there. (What? gasps Jane’s mother. WITHOUT THE CHILDREN??? That most certainly was NOT I.) At any rate, the woman who returned soon found herself in the grip of morningsickness (and afternoonsickness, and eveningsickness) and first-trimester fatigue. By the time the third trimester rolled around, Jane’s mom was only dropping by for short visits. Rilla’s mother, when last seen, was doing an awful lot of moaning about her poor aching back and her battered rib cage.

Huck’s mother starts off the day in pretty fine form, but by midafternoon there is a decided edge to her voice. She would not like to hear a tape-recording of herself after 5 pm. Jane’s mother, that high-minded gal, would probably turn pale upon witnessing the drill-sergeant manner that overtakes Huck’s mom during after-dinner chores.

Or that fact that Rilla and Wonderboy are watching Little Bear while Huck’s mom writes this post.

But, you know, Huck’s mom could teach Jane’s mother a few things, too. Such as: store the extra toilet paper up high.


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37 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Toni says:

    You can comfort yourself with the knowledge that Jane’s mother will come back when you have grandchildren.

  2. Melissa H says:

    So funny. I was just watching this video wondering how that kid’s life will change when baby #2 arrives in a few months. Great video but I”m thinking a bit unrealistic for any parent of more than one kiddo 😉

  3. nina says:

    So sweetly honest. I do terribly miss the days of one child and I only have two!

    And my guess is that Jane’s mother is always there underneath in the matters that are most important.

  4. Ellie says:

    Ha ha. I will have 4 girls soon and did the organic vegetables thing only with my first too. And no kids in the kitchen now.

  5. sarah says:

    LOL! The funny thing is, that both ends of the continuum are going to turn out delightfully but for very different reasons. One because you did it all, and the other because you didn’t.

  6. nina says:

    I’m watching the video Melissa H suggested above. I can only stand about 2 minutes at a time and then I’m either interrupted or in despair. Golly, that kid is so easy and potty trained at 20 months. I might let my kids try and make PBJ sandwiches. Not sure why I haven’t let them before.

  7. Betty says:

    Oh my! That brings back a lot of memories! We have all been there, my dear! You are a wonderful writer!

  8. Jane Wiley says:

    Melissa, as someone twice your age and with my son now 37 years old… I can say with experience…

    You have been an inspiration to me and your children are blessed to have you as their mother… I admire you for the caring, loving mother that you are…

    Your children know that they are loved…

    You are a wonderful mother… and when your children are grown and have children of their own. They will come to you and say, “Mother you were always able to show us the right direction in life and you always gave us your unconditional love”, and they will thank you for being their mother and thank God for giving them you…

  9. Kristen says:

    Beautiful, Lissa!

  10. Yvonne says:

    Huck’s mom AND Jane’s mom is insanely awesome! You said it for all of us. I can relate to every point you made. I’ll share 2 things with you.

    Thing 1. By the time my number 6 was a year old I had evolved back into a more patient and loving mom, more like the mom I was at 24. Now I’m pregnant with number 7 and that has waned a bit, but ah well. . . I know I’ll get it back.

    Thing 2. If you are as great with all the kids as you were with Jane, THEY would not be as close. I know it sounds crazy, but during my pregnancies when hormones and exhation made me a less hands-on mom, the bigger kids grew closer and the little kids grew to trust and depend on each other and the big kids more. That is exactly what I want–children who love, trust, and depend on each other for life. That is far more important to me than being remembered as a perfect mom.

    And just like kids go through stages–the good, the bad, and the ugly–,alas so do we moms. Maybe we should name our stages just like we do for the kids. Er, on second thought, maybe we shouldn’t! LOL!

  11. michelle waters says:

    Awesome post! I’m completely in Huck’s mother mode as I wait for baby #5 to arrive any day now. And of course I’m naively believing that not being pregnant will solve all of life’s problems… Thanks for the encouragemnt today.

  12. Karen@Candid Diversions says:

    Loved this post. I have three girls – and I find myself trying harder with my youngest (now 2). I think my middle child’s mom was the worst. Hope this new mom I feel like can make it up to her – she’s only 4 so I’ve got some time. 🙂

  13. Beth says:

    Loved this post.

    I console myself with the knowledge that if I were still Eli’s-mother it would mean that I hadn’t had the chance to become Calli- or Joshua’s-mother. And that’s an unbearable thought.

  14. Sherry Early says:

    I miss Eldest Daughter’s mother, too. And I don’t really think she’s coming back, so Z-baby will have to make do with what’s left of the mother-that-was, and seven older brothers and and sisters to fill in the gaps.

  15. sarah says:

    Everyone has said all the things I would have wanted to say too – except that under Jane and Huck’s mother is their source, Lissa, who is amazing in her own right.

    I am ashamed to say Baby Rose’s mother is not the same as Almost Ten Year Old Rose’s mother, but then again I don’t know I would want her to be.

  16. Penny in VT says:

    I think Jane and Huck and all the sweet ones in between are pretty darn lucky – your whole family rocks 🙂

  17. Amy C. says:

    Too funny, too true. I so feel this way . . . and lately I’ve been wondering if my husband’s wife is ever going to show up around here again (such a wonderful conversationalist she was . . . she could complete a whole sentence!). Thanks for the laugh.

  18. KimN says:

    Tears poured down my cheeks as I read this…I’m sure not your intention…as I thought back to the days when my two eldest were so darling and I would float through hours of my day awed by my offspring compared to today when I add to my daily list “Read to/play with youngest” so I don’t forget! I too wonder when did I become so frazzled and hurried…where are the days when a sleeping baby took priority….my poor youngest is the most flexible endearing creation and the child has never had a day revolve around her schedule, but I think God knew that’s how it is with the youngest of our broods and He weaves them together with the grace to not notice!

    I loved your post…thank you

  19. ChristineMM says:

    I enjoyed your post.

    Well I was just like Jane’s mother! With baby #2 a little dulled but was still Jane’s mother. I did see how having more than one child changed things.

    My biggest lack of patience kicked in when the two kids were elementary school aged. No actually the biggest shift was after the nursing stopped and my prolactin doses were no longer happening. Prolactin is a wonderful thing so the entire time that I nursed I was more patient and loving, thank goodness that was 61 months worth of mothering time.

    I always wanted three kids and am at a place where I could choose to have a third child now. However I realize that with three kids spaced this far apart that I for sure would not be as patient as Jane’s mother. I think I’m done having kids.

    For the record I am in awe of moms with four or more kids as I simple do not know if I could do it or how it is done, so I look at those moms with amazement! I don’t think I could mother four or more children as I would turn into something very different than the mom I was of one baby or two kids.

    The place I’m at with the decision to try for more babies or not is do I want to just keep things the way they are now and living this life now with the kind of mom I am now or add another child into the family that will change the dynamic between all of us and make it harder for me to mother them and homeschool them? I don’t think I have the strength I need to add a third child to the family!

  20. Ecki says:

    I just have to say that photo is precious!

  21. radmama says:

    My 13yo’s mother was such a patient young woman. So in tune with her son’s every feeling. So many books read. So many sticks picked up. So many crafts done together. So many poems recited on walks.

    10yo’s mother was a bit more harried. Slightly less present. Far less patient. (Maybe because of 10yo’s biting, climbing, hitting etc?)

    9-month-old’s mother is somewhere in between. Not hovering, not spending hours playing, but relaxed, patient and treasuring the short short time of babyhood.

    None of them are as patient as Jane’s mother, mind you!

  22. Rebecca says:

    Perhaps Jane’s mother and my son Ben’s mother are off sitting somewhere in a cafe together, sipping a chai. 🙂

  23. Mamalion says:

    Waaah, sniff, sniff. Right there with you. I despair daily of the fact that I have to remember to read to the Littles, as we call them. The oldest ones- oh, goodness. Papalion was on 2nd shift, I never cooked dinner, (since we ate with him at lunch), and we went to the park, the pool, the zoo, and read to them for hours.

    I will say, and have been told by the oldest kids that I’m much more lenient on the youngers. I personally think I’m a better parent. One night Papalion and I were standing in the kitchen, each holding a Little, and he said to me, ‘Look, Oldest and Next Cubkids, with 10 years of parenting!’ So true! Now where did I put that manual?

  24. Mamalion says:

    Oh, and we have the toilet paper pics too! And the whole philosophy of ‘no sugar shall touch my baby’s lips’. Yeah, right. And don’t forget boiling everything with the first one….

  25. Amy says:

    I loved this post. I’ve been feeling like that too lately. I keep thinking that I should be a better mother now than when I was so young and inexperienced, but Johnny’s mother was much more patient and fun than the 38-year-old-me who is expecting baby number 7! Thanks for helping me realize that I’m not the only one.

  26. Heidi Saxton says:

    When we got three kids at once (through foster care) I’m afraid Huck’s mom took up permanent residence at Chez Saxton for the first six months or so …. Gradually I got my bearings, and now she only does the occasional housecall.

    At our house, she’s called “Mommy Monster.”

    Love your site!

  27. Melissa Wiley says:

    Christine, as much as I poke fun at myself in my Huck’s-mom incarnation, I must hasten to say that–and this is the absolute truth–in lots and lots of ways, I have found babies number 5 and 6 to be MUCH EASIER than babies 1 and 2–mainly because babies 1, 2, and 3 are now big enough to be an enormous help! Some days I have to fight for the chance to hold the baby. 🙂

    My heart was melting yesterday after Mass. I was there alone with all the kids except Rilla. (We split up church attendance since we no longer all fit into one vehicle. Scott always used to wind up outside with Rilla anyway.) It went pretty well, baby slept most of the time, but Wonderboy got a little impish and I had to hold his hands to keep him from poking and pestering the life out of Rose. I wouldn’t have blamed Rose if she’d been totally exasperated with him, but after Mass, on the way back to the car, she said, kind of out of the blue, “Mom, can you imagine life without Stevie? It wouldn’t be nearly as happy.” Awww….

    Rose (in many ways my most challenging child, she of the fiery temper, God love her) is also the child who thanks me almost every day “for having another baby, Mama.” Having another baby does change the dynamic, no question, but in such lovely ways. I’m noticing, too, that there’s an increased, hmm, how to describe it, sense of camaraderie between me and the older girls, as they laugh over the little ones’ antics with me–especially the exasperating ones!

  28. Melissa Wiley says:

    At our house, she’s called “Mommy Monster.”

    We have one of those, too. She’s called Frankenmommy and she usually only makes an appearance when we are late in getting somewhere. I like to think Huck’s mom isn’t quite THAT bad, LOL! 😉

  29. Melissa Wiley says:

    “If you are as great with all the kids as you were with Jane, THEY would not be as close. I know it sounds crazy, but during my pregnancies when hormones and exhation made me a less hands-on mom, the bigger kids grew closer and the little kids grew to trust and depend on each other and the big kids more. That is exactly what I want–children who love, trust, and depend on each other for life. That is far more important to me than being remembered as a perfect mom.”

    Yvonne, this is really lovely, and so very true! They won’t remember me as perfect, but they will, I hope, remember me as fun-loving and just plain loving, and when they look back upon this crazy time of life when we had so many little people keeping us hopping, I hope they’ll remember the belly laughs and the melty moments that really do make up such a big part of our days right now.

  30. Lisa says:

    So cute!!! I so relate to Huck’s mother–I know there’s a sweeper in the house somewhere…..

  31. Amy C. says:

    Melissa, you wrote , “We split up church attendance since we no longer all fit into one vehicle.”

    This reminded me of my own morning yesterday, and I just had to share the giggle: after a totally sleepless night with a sick kiddo, I wake my dh for church, saying “Since C’s still sick we’ll have to split up.” Dh hits alarm, responds “Okay you can have the kids and the house, I get the big-screen TV.”

  32. Heather says:

    oh, i just love this and i can completely relate…although i’m not quite sure that i was ever as saintly as “jane’s mom.” sometimes, like yesterday, i start out the morning at a pretty good pace, even finding the stamina to chuckle at “wow, you still can’t figure out how to multiply and check a fraction despite the fact this is the fourth day in a row we have spent intensively studying these things.” and then, about 1:30 rolls around, little people get cranky, refuse to take a nap, and well, i get rather cranky too. hmm, maybe i can make it to 1:45 today.

  33. mamacrow says:

    this made my day, so glad it’s not just me! Except I was never really Jane’s mum in the first place 🙁
    Infact, I’m recovering from a visit from Frankenmummy 🙁

  34. Rachel says:

    This made me tear up, and so did many of the comments afterwards. Thank you for once again so eloquently expressing what many of us feel but can’t put into words.

  35. Hannah says:

    I adore this post. I always find your warts-and-all posts terribly endearing and comforting. And yes, I think all those moms are there inside you. You feel a sense of disappointment in yourself only because you care so much.

  36. Alice Gunther says:

    Great post!

    I love Jane’s mother, Rilla’s mother, and Huck’s mother.

  37. Jennifer3 says:

    I just found your website today and had to comment on this post even though it is an older one. It is so good to know that I am not the only one who feels like a totally different mother than I was with my first. I often see old pictures and think back to how each child was born into a totally “different” family with a different mother. Each one being just right, but still different. It is a little bittersweet.