The One Gift an Imperfect Mother Can Always Give

The One Gift an Imperfect Mother Can Always Give | Twin Cities Mom Collective

Being a mom has been a huge part of my identity the last nine years. Yet, there’s another part of my identity that I will always and forever cling tightly to. It’s the identity I’ve had since I was born, something deeply rooted from the time I was laid in my mother’s arms: I, too, am someone’s child. I recognize it’s a great privilege to be able to have this be such a big part of who I am. 

My mom and dad raised four pretty spectacular people (in my opinion). And I was right smack dab in the middle of that group. Well, towards the bottom middle, but I was squished in there somewhere and that gave me another identity I’ve never been able to shake: the middle child. 

When I was in sixth grade I wrote a letter to the newspaper explaining why I thought my mom was the best. Unbeknownst to me, it was posted in a special little insert in the Mother’s Day edition that Sunday. I had no idea my little misspelled attempt to express my love was made public until The Post arrived on our front step. I felt embarrassed that now my mom (and our whole city) knew how I really felt about her. After all, I was 12 and not the best at expressing gratitude.

The next day at school, my sixth grade teacher tried reading the clipping to the class and I nearly climbed on his desk and ripped it out of his hand with the fiercest, most serious look my scrawny self could muster up so he wouldn’t let my secret out. (I’ve always been impressed with myself younger in that moment, because after all, he did back down.)

Anyways, back to that middle child, someone’s baby, yet a mom identity I was talking about – they all merge together in their own way. All my mom did for me as a child, and even does to this day, floods into my days with my own children. It’s impossible to separate the two, and beyond the sweet family traditions that have been passed down, the overlap is what actually gets me through some of the hardest of parenting feats. 

When my son was three I remember having an especially hard time with my frustration level. I was a single mom and unable to tag team with anyone. When he pushed my limits, I sometimes broke. I remember walking into work one morning, feeling particularly guilty about how I mishandled a situation with my toddler, wondering if I’d messed him up forever. I remember clinging to the word grace tighter than ever before, but then a memory of my own childhood snuck in as well.

I remembered that as a child I rarely recalled my mom yelling at me. This isn’t because she didn’t yell at me – I had my fair share of disrespectful behavior and I do remember her yelling at my siblings. In fact, she had every reason to raise her voice at her moody little middle child. I would have. The reason I can remember that my mom must have lost it with me is because I remember her apologizing. I don’t remember the yelling or the things she felt bad about, I remember the reconciliation that followed. 

I grabbed hold of that memory and prayed it’d work with my own children. I mess up often, but I will always be honest with them about those moments and work towards restoring anything I’ve broken between us. Not because I’m just a good person, but because I know that when my mom did that with me, it changed the framework of who I was – a person willing to embrace her imperfections because that’s the only way I’ll truly grow. She made me more comfortable being who I really am. 

I hope my children remember this when they grow up. I hope this gets passed down through the ages, just like their grandma did for me. I am grateful that what my mom passed down, through her own broken attempts to raise her children, has turned out to be good and helpful. 

When I wrote that post to the newspaper as a twelve year old, I told everyone I wanted to be just like my mom when I grew up. I know a lot of kids say this (and many don’t), but when I said it I didn’t fully understand the extent that I’d rely on that fact as an adult. My mom’s love for us as children serves as a constant compass in my own parenting. Not because she was perfect, but because she taught me how to love deeply, to be patient and to be kind even when your child is annoying and driving you completely bonkers. 

I said it once as a twelve year old and quite a few times in cards over the years, but let me say it again, my mom is quite spectacular and I don’t take that for granted in the slightest way. 

Thank you, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!

Maureen Zhao
Maureen is an educator and a mom to a sweet and wild seven year old named Leo and newborn named Remy. She and her family can be found digging in the dirt, seeking adventures outside, traveling, hunting down thrifty deals, visiting local museums and parks, discovering new global flavors at local restaurants, and looking for resourceful ways to be involved in their community together. Maureen is eager to connect with those around her regardless of where they come from and is passionate about raising a son who cares for the world around him. Both her and her family have a strong desire to be where the action is, yet yearn for the solace that is found when they're surrounded by nature. When not in the city where home and work is, they can often be found venturing north and setting up camp where the only thing they need to worry about is where to bike that day and where to find the best view of the sunset. You can follow Maureen and her family's daily adventures on Instagram {@maureenshealer}.

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