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February 25, 2013

Lisa Madras: My love isn’t perfect, son, but it is pure

NEW CASTLE — What is the most defining moment of your life thus far?

I know it might sound trite, but for me that moment was definitely the day I became a mom for the first time. I often tell people that I was born the day my son was born.

Growing up, I knew that I wanted to be certain things: rich, powerful, influential, and admired by the masses. I wasn't certain that I wanted kids.

Somewhere around the age of 26, though, I wanted to be mom. I never did become rich, powerful, influential, or admired by the masses. But I did become the me that I'm certain I was destined to be all along: Mom.

I'm writing about this today because I had another row with my son last night that's become the norm, rather than the exception, since he plunged headlong into the chaotic and insanity-riddled state they call puberty. I was correcting his sister, he butted in, and I flipped out because I felt my authority had been undermined. He, in turn, blew a gasket and the evening ended with tears, tantrums, and hurt feelings.

My son didn't take it well, either.

The common theme of these fights is always my son telling me that he doesn't believe I love him. My rational side tells me that I'm being emotionally manipulated, but the part of me that remembers all too well my own teenage years reminds me that he's telling the truth. He genuinely feels that way. If your own child has ever said this to you, you most certainly know what it feels like to have your heart break.

I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong that my child feels this way, or it's just a genetic feature, or if every teenager feels unloved at times. But when I hear those words come from the mouth of the very person I base my reason for existence on, I can't help but feel like a failure in every sense of the word.

The thing about being a mom is that every day has to be a defining moment. You can't take a break from it, and everything you do counts. Maybe I do have days where I don't show enough love to my kids, or to anyone else around me for that matter. Maybe I do slip up and yell when I should talk calmly, or not pay enough attention, or simply say or do the wrong thing.

But being a mom does not imply perfection. My son will have to learn this someday, and he will have to learn that even the purest and most powerful love has occasional deficiencies. It's not my job to raise my children in a perfect world. It's my job to teach them how to survive in an imperfect one.

Should he question love? Of course, he should. Nothing in this life is guaranteed, and this skill will someday help him weed out the people who don't love him.

Should he question MY love? I wish with all of my heart that he wouldn't, but I know that someday he'll leave all of that doubt behind. I suspect it will be the day his own child is born, and he, like me, will be born then, too.  

Perhaps that will be HIS defining moment.

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