Kimberly Russell M.A., M.S.Ed

How to Be a Grown-Up

Moms Are People Too, Kind Of

The ultimate Mother's Day gift to mom: seeing who she is beyond motherhood.

Posted May 11, 2014

We used to throw our mom’s underwear at each other.

Now, before you click away looking for a less disturbing Psychology Today article to read, let me explain.

My siblings and I come from a very religious Catholic family. (Which doesn’t sound like it should be the opening sentence of an explanation for underwear-tossing, but stick with me here.) During Easter weekend, which starts off with the remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, the rule in our household was to maintain an atmosphere of solemnity for two days straight– no television and no talking.

So of course, the four of us kids did what any group of siblings would do if asked to maintain silence: using physical comedy we silently tried to make each other laugh out loud and break our mom's rule.

One year, we tried mooning each other, passing gas (loudly) mid-cartwheel, and doing weird dances. But no one cracked a smile or made a sound. Yes, we were that good.

But the silence was broken when someone grabbed my mom’s freshly hand-washed underwear hanging in the bathtub, and proceeded to throw it at the rest of us, causing an eruption of childish laughter. I don’t remember which sibling had the idea of throwing the wet underwear, but I remember that this person won the game and earned our respect.

When you’re a kid, your mother vacillates between being your entire world and a secondary character in your fun-filled fantasy land of underwear-tossing. She is the butt of your jokes. She is a pain in your butt. And she kicks your butt, as needed.

Your mother's life will be all about you, for a long, long time, until you realize it's not. You'll learn as an adult-- perhaps when mom is working through personal challenges or a decline in health-- that your mom is a whole person who had a full-fledged identity before you were born, and she continues to struggle, grow and change for better or worse, long after you move out of the house.

Yup, moms are people, too, kind of.

And today, as I sit 8 months pregnant with my first baby, I'm realizing that my child's view of me will naturally be the story of how I mothered him. Yes, nurturing my son through childhood and adulthood will be one of the most important, sacred roles I will ever play in this lifetime. But one day, when he is old enough to demand that I see him as much more than just my little boy, he'll realize I'm much more than just a mom. I will no longer need to be superwoman; I will finally be acknowledged as human again, like I am now, before his birth. And I imagine that when this breakthrough happens, our love and respect for each other will reach a whole new level.

Yup, seeing our moms for who they are (not just how they've served us-- or failed to serve us) is one of the best gifts an child can give this Mother's Day.

Well, that and NOT writing about her underwear on the Internet.

Your Turn: How has your view of your mother evolved?

Come pick up your FREE COPY of this writer's manifesto, From Crisis to Courage: The Nuts & Bolts of Growing Your Nuts After a Life Changing Trauma.

© Kimberly Eclipse