My sister-in-law recently asked me what attributes are most important to have in one's repertoire when it comes to mothering. A list immediately popped into my head that sounded like a read-through of an advertisement for Mary Poppins:
*Must have an affinity for Disney movies and endless renditions of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
*Must have the ability to clean up bodily fluids from cars, beds and carpets without tossing one's cookies
*Must have the patience to be "helped" with everything from making lunch to mopping the floor
*Must have no qualms about never again going grocery shopping in peace
*A fondness for play-doh, crayons, and magic erasers is helpful
*Must be willing to stay up late, get up in the night, and wake up early
*Must be willing to subject one's body to constant scrutiny; i.e., "Mom, why is your bum so big?" or "What are those dots on your face?"
*An ability to to surreptitiously cheat at Candy Land to make the game end faster is helpful, but not required.
Joking aside, when it comes down to it, motherhood is about sacrifice. And lots of cleaning. Not ideal, but doable. Besides, how many sacrifices are coupled with the fresh excitement of seeing every train and helicopter as if for the first time? I find myself being disappointed when I am in the car with adults and come across some sort of digger or bulldozer and there is no small person to announce it to. Adult: "Um, that's exciting, Bonnie. Thanks for pointing that out."
But back to the original question, what attributes are must-haves when it comes to being a mother? I think my number one is being slow to anger. I struggle with this, especially when I am tired. When I was about eight months pregnant with the twins (translation: nearly immobile and completely exhausted) I lost my temper with Michael over some minor thing. David rightly chastised me for it, which was an acutely painful experience, but it was a life-changer and set me on a better path. I'm much more in control of my temper now, which has made a huge difference in my mothering.
As long as I'm talking about tempers, I think a key to diffusing anger is a sense of humor. The ability to laugh has been known throughout history to have saved the life of many a small child who has emptied the flour bin all over a freshly mopped floor or covered himself in Desitin. (Parenting tip: Something about the click of a camera quells the urge to murder. It's true. This is why I keep my camera readily accessible at all times). It also helps to sit in the flour and join in the dumping fun, but that is an activity which is not for the faint of heart or the freak of neat.
I could probably spend days listing more attributes I think are important, or that I wish to attain, but mostly, in the case of mothering, it all comes down to patience. Be a little slower to anger, a little quicker to laugh, show a little more love and a little more understanding.
And don't forget to take a picture now and then.