I became a mother in 1987. Son #1 came into the world as a perfect textbook baby, according to his pediatrician. I had no other frame of reference. He ate every four hours, rarely cried, slept through the night at four weeks, and made me feel like the perfect mother. I actually had very little to do with it. Other than the feeding and changing diapers. The first thing the Ex-Ex and I did when we brought him home was to take him upstairs and change his diaper. We were scared to death and really didn't know what else to do. I had zero to no experience with baby boys and their parts. I managed to let him pee all over himself before I could get the diaper back on. Live and learn. I learned to always keep a diaper in place so that wouldn't happen again. I've come to the side of the camp that believes we are born with a certain personality and temperament. If we are lucky, we have a spouse who loves us and helps us and understands that the bond between a mother and child has nine months to take hold and that it never lets go. We are also lucky if we have enough resources to provide for all of this little bundle's needs and a few of his wants.
I became a mother for the second time in 1992. Son #2 was completely different. He seemed hungry all of the time (my parts hurt just remembering that). He cried with a gusto I didn't know a little bundle could muster. He rarely napped (anything under an hour doesn't count, in my book). And he suffered from night terrors off and on for a few years. Our pediatrician, Dr. Will London, informed me that he was a "normal" baby. Now he is as calm as can be. A couple of years ago he asked me if he was an accident since there is almost a five year difference between him and his big brother. No, he was planned. We were thinking ahead to college tuition probably.
Mothers want their children to be happy. It is as simple as that. When they are heartbroken, so are we. I am not a hover mother or any of the other titles that have been given to mothers who want to fix everything and make their child's world perfect. I know that you cannot do that. Mama Mildred taught me that. There will be some stumbles and probably some falls. That's how you learn self-confidence and resiliency. Life comes with happy and sad. You have to learn not to get too high on the happy or too low on the sad. Balance. It isn't always fair. Asking for help when you need it is not a sign of weakness. Each of us is a work in progress. For our entire lives. Not everyone is meant to be a doctor, a five-star general or the head of a corporation. As Abraham Lincoln said "Whatever you are, be a good one." Abe knew adversity.
There are no perfect mothers. We are human. We cry. We stumble. We take detours. But we never stop loving our babies or wanting the very best for them. Our worst fear is that our babies will leave us before we leave them. That's not the natural order of things. We will always feel the need to fix things, even though we know we can't. That's when we pull out a frying pan or a mixer and try to feed them something we know they love or at least they used to when they were little.
Someone gave me us the children's book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch when the boys were little. This became their favorite bedtime story because it always made me cry. (I am tearing up just thinking about it.) On his website, the author says the book started out as a song.
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
as long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
I know that somewhere I still have that book. It's in a box of treasures in a closet, I am guessing, with the Batmans and Thomas the Tank Engines. It's the story of a little boy and all the stuff he gets into (as you can see from the cover). It ends, however, with the grown up little boy taking care of his mother and singing:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
as long as I'm living
my mommy you'll be.
Click on the link above and listen to the author read the story. You will understand why Love You Forever is a best seller in retirement communities. I am not just tearing up at this point. I am a lucky mother. Dripping tears and all.
Son #1 was (and still is) a big fan of Chili's Boneless Buffalo Wings back in 2002. The internet was around at that point and he found the recipe on the Top Secret Recipe website. I found the recipe yesterday while straightening out my cookbook shelf. It's actually a bookcase-- I have a lot of cookbooks.
Top Secret Recipes version of Chili's Boneless Buffalo Wings
by Todd Wilbur
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 cup milk
2 chicken breast fillets
4-6 cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup Crystal or Frank's Louisiana hot sauce
1 tablespoon butter (the recipe calls for margarine, but I am a purist and only use butter!)
On the side:
bleu cheese dressing (for dipping)-- we prefer ranch
- Combine flour, salt, peppers and paprika in a medium bowl.
- In another small bowl, whisk together egg and milk.
- Slice each chicken breast into 6 pieces. Preheat 4-6 cups of vegetable oil in a deep fryer to 375˚ F. (I use my deep cast iron frying pan.)
- One or two at a time, dip each piece of chicken into the egg mixture, then into the breading blend; then repeat the process so that each piece of chicken is double-coated.
- When all chicken pieces have been breaded, arrange them on a plate and chill for 15 minutes.
- When the chicken is done resting, drop each piece into the hot oil and fry for 5-6 minutes or until each piece is browned.
- As chicken fries, combine the hot sauce and butter in a small bowl. Microwave sauce for 20-30 seconds or just until the butter is melted, then stir to combine. You can also use a small saucepan for this step. Just combine the hot sauce and margarine in the saucepan over low heat and still until the butter is melted and ingredients are blended.
- When chicken pieces are done frying, remove them to a plate lined with a couple of paper towels.
- Place the chicken pieces in a covered container such as a large jar with a lid (a tupperware-type bowl will work just fine). Pour the sauce over the chicken in the container, cover, and then shake gently until each piece of chicken is coated with sauce. Pour the chicken onto a plate and serve the dish with bleu cheese dressing (or ranch or whatever you like) and sliced celery on the side.
I also found a cookbook that Son #2's fourth grade teacher and class put together. The Comet's Cafeteria. Son #2 was (and still is) a fan of cheese sticks. I remember searching for a recipe and having occasional success with it.
Fried Mozzarella Cheese Sticks
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 quart oil for deep frying
1 (16 ounce) package of mozzarella cheese sticks
In a small bowl, mix the eggs and water. Mix the bread crumbs and garlic salt in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, blend the flour and cornstarch.
In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil to 375˚F. One at a time, moisten each mozzarella stick in the egg mixture. Then dip into the bread crumbs, and finally into the flour mixture. Then fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
photo: Rick Bland
Bon appétit to all mothers. Happy Mother's Day! Our babies might not be able to be with us, but they are in our hearts and souls. Now and always.