Written for Fandango’s Dog Days of August Challenge of “your best job ever.”
I was told when I was age 16 that I would never have children of my own, the result of surgery needed after being hit by a boyfriend and landing and bouncing off the hood of a car. So, I planned a life that would be absent motherhood, and at age 17, I tried to go to the Navy to travel all over the world, but I couldn’t pass the physical exam.
It is just as well that I failed to meet the requirements, because four years later, at age 21, I became legal guardian and mother to my late sister’s two sons and two daughters. I had no idea how to parent, and because I never planned to need any knowledge of parenting, I wasn’t preparedfor it.
I had been a busgirl at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo restaurant, so I knew how to clear tables in a timely manner. I worked as a short-order cook in a pancake restaurant, so I could cook pancakes 36 different ways. And I had worked in a chicken processing plant, so I knew how to pull out the windpipes of chickens. But, none of these are very helpful in understanding the needs of four motherless children!
I also did not grow up with a mother who was maternal or domestic, so I had to learn by trial and error. I just gave them the kind of loving I had wanted as a child, for I understood that love was the main thing they needed. Love involves caring for, appreciating, disciplining, and enjoying them, which brought me so much pleasure.
To see them successful today, parents and grandparents themselves, is so wonderful. When they thank me, I tell them that I am grateful that they changed my life for the better.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to have shared love and received love in return. Three years after I adopted the four, I had a baby boy, making my crew of five beauties complete.
Yes, being a mother or parent was hard work, with constant worry about if you were doing it right, hoping that you didn’t do permanent damage to any psyches. It seemed to me growing up that everyone who turned out bad blamed their parents. Women are probably more sensitive to being seem as good or bad than fathers, because society judges mothers more harshly.
But, at the end of my life, it will be good if some of my beloved students tell of how I changed their lives, but my greatest hope is that one of my children will stand up and say that I was a good mother. The good thing is that while I retired from teaching, I will be a mother all of my life! Now, I am a grandmother and a great-grandmother! The joy continues!
Thank you, God, for the privilege and honor of being a mother to my young’uns. It has been the hardest of jobs, but also the most rewarding and joyful of jobs!