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Being a good mother doesn’t mean being perfect

By Robin Dearing
This ran as a column in The Daily Sentinel on opinion page May 14. Happy Mother's Day, mom. “I’m the worst mother ever,? I muttered over and over to myself as I raced to pick up my kindergartener. Margaret had been on a field trip to Moon Farm and needed to be picked up at a different time than normal. I had forgotten. •What kind of mother forgets her own kid?? I asked myself. Certainly not my own mom • she would never have forgotten. She was always ready to shuttle my brother and me around to various practices, games and band concerts. I can never remember her not being there for me … ever. Shirley Dearing, is everything that I’m not: calm, sensible and dependable. She is shy around new people, but she is quick-witted and always willing to make the best out of any situation. When I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter, I called my mom in a panic. “I can’t become a mother yet. I don’t know everything like you do,? I cried. She laughed at my realization and told me that I should be able to figure out what I don•t already know. I was fishing for more assurance, but my mom is not that type of lady. She always believed that you grew strongest when standing on your own two feet. I remember as a child losing at games like “Sorry? and •Life.? When I pouted, I got no consolation. •The fun is in playing the game,? she•d say. She never let me win at anything. If I wanted to win, I had to learn how to play to the fullest of my abilities. She’s right, there’s no glory in getting carried across the finish line. My mom is chock full of common sense, but she is never really one to tell you what to do. If she had concerns about someone I was dating, she would never say so. Instead she would make subtle comments that would draw attention to things that I was overlooking in my youthful zeal. As I grew out of my angst-filled teenage years, I began to see my mom as a great ally. Through my college years, I worked with her at the family business and it was then that we became great friends. Even though we now live 800 miles apart, she’s been my most constant friend and a source of support that I couldn’t imagine being without. The one trait that I envy in her (and one that doesn’t exist in me at all) is her stoicism. While I’m prone to dissolve into a pool of tears after watching a Hallmark commercial, she rarely lets her emotions get the best of her. Never was this more apparent than when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last spring. Once she got over the initial shock and fear of knowing that her body had turned on her, she said with the grace and ease that define her character, “This is not going to kill me.? And it didn•t. She suffered through 4 months of chemotherapy, losing her hair, as well as two mastectomies (they didn’t decide to take the second breast until after the first surgery). This was followed by radiation therapy, which required her to drive 45 minutes each way daily for numerous weeks. Toward the end of her treatments, her daily excursions included trips to the local hospital to visit my father, who has been suffering from heart disease for many years. When I would talk to her on the phone, she would list the treatments she had already had and count down the ones that still remained without drama or complaint. I, on the other hand, would sob over the injustice of it all. Lament that I couldn’t be there to help my mom. Rage over the fact that she was sick at all. Now she is cancer free and well on the road to a full recovery — all is just as she said it would be. So now, as I wonder what she might say when I tell her that I forgot my daughter at kindergarten, I realize that being a good mother isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being strong for yourself and your family. It’s about realizing your strengths and exploiting them. It’s about acknowledging your weaknesses and working to overcome them. And, most importantly, it’s about teaching your children to do the same. Robin Dearing is assistant to the publisher of The Daily Sentinel and co-author of the “Haute Mamas? blog on GJSentinel.com.