Shared Stories: Mommy Dearest

Kaci Cooper’s reflection on the meaning of a text message from her son prompted this tongue-in-cheek essay on motherhood.  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns

By Kacie (Kathy) Cooper
How does a mother ever really know if she is doing a good job as a mother? Well, there was that movie about Joan Crawford as a mother in real life, “Mommie Dearest,” and let me tell you, that did not paint a great picture of motherhood.  Something to do with wire hangers, but I can’t quite remember the details right now.

So where can a mother go to find out how good a job she’s doing?  My advice? Well, don’t ask your children.  “Mommy Dearest” was written by Joan’s Crawford’s daughter.

Since I got a cell phone things have changed in my life. I texted my youngest son Benny last week and said, “How are you doing, Sweetie?”  To which he sent a reply text, “Hi, Mother Dearest.  I’m fine. How are you?”

“Huh?  Mother Dearest?”  And though they were endearing words, I thought of Joan Crawford. Had my son seen the movie?  I didn’t ask.  It seems I’m better off living in oblivion.

I grew up during those wonderful years in the 1960’s when children were to be “seen and not heard.”  I was determined my children would be both seen and heard. What a mistake…now they won’t shut up. 

Why did I do that? Because being a mother is all about making sacrifices.  Now I am still the one being “seen and not heard.”  I guess it’s what they refer to in the Lion King movie as the “circle of life.”  I’ve learned so much about mothering just from watching movies.

Last month my four kids, two grandkids, and I went camping at a wonderful little camp site. While in the pool racing laps with my oldest son Tony, I got a bit brave.  We discussed his childhood. 

The only part I really remember was when he told me, “Mom…you did the best you could.”
I immediately set him straight, “No Tony! I did the best!”

“You did the best you could, Mom.”

“I did the best!”

“You did the best you could, Mom.”

“I did the best!”

This debate went on for about an hour. It was interesting. It felt like I was back on the debate team at Excelsior High School. It was really fun. No, really.

I’ve heard that saying “You did the best you could” many times and I hate it. It implies that under the circumstances, you only did certain things because that was all that was possible and there was actually no way you did it right. 

Forget that. I feel I was a great mother.  Now sometimes I think the only people I have to convince are my offspring.

Perhaps I have learned more about being a good mother just by being around my grandkids. Even though I want to give advice to their mothers on how they should be raising their kids, I have learned to hold back on my expertise on child-rearing.  

Isn’t that proof that I must be doing a good job? I think so. I don’t think they’d appreciate it anyway. They probably have the same idea that I had growing up. They’ll raise their kids just the opposite of how they were raised.  It’s human nature, I guess.

Don’t be fooled. My kids had a great upbringing. And besides, we never owned any wire hangers.

Not every woman can be a great mother. But if she values her kids and lets them be heard, that’s a start.  And don’t worry about it. If nothing else, try living in oblivion, like I do.  Oh! There’s actually a movie by that name. It’s cool. You ought to rent it sometime.