May is the month dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and to our earthly Mothers. Thinking about my own mom this past month, and things about being a mom, it brought me back to an article that my daughter, Joie, wrote as a contest entry for Oprah. The contest was requesting applicants to explain why their mothers were “The Perfect Mom,” so Joie thought that she would write in and be a bit sarcastic. Here it is, only how she could tell it!

– Jeanne Levnknecht

——————————————————–

C+ Mom! A Tribute to Jeanne Levknecht

My mom is by no means the Greatest Mom in the world. With a very wide smile on my face, I can sincerely say that she is at best a C+ Mom. She’s not one of the predestined, genetically-disposed women who dedicate their entire lives to the wellbeing and happiness, and we must not forget safety and organic intake, of their children. On the contrary, my mom was more like a big sister to us than a mother, hands down. She just wasn’t wired for domesticity. Her most cooked meal in the 1970s was Velveeta Cheese melted on fried hamburger and put on top of whatever was available. It wasn’t pleasant. I think she went to three of our sporting events, which numbered in the hundreds, at which she yelled to the coach to take her kid out – that being me – and to put one of those benched kids in. I didn’t know until I went to college that socks were supposed to match – each other – much less your outfit. Don’t get me wrong. Even though my mother was in no way cut out for motherhood, she somehow supernaturally kept trying.

Saddled with the Catholic doctrine of no birth control and a serious, many-times spoken-of healthy sex drive, she and my dad happily produced six children.

We consistently ran out of toilet paper, milk and underwear. We turned the channel on our television with a wrench as we held out cones of tin foil trying to get reception. We laughed, wrestled, and board-gamed our way through childhood with clothes on that she made in about a half hour. She chatted loudly on the phone while she pushed the vacuum and sang songs to Jesus way off-key into a soup ladle as she did the dishes. If we didn’t do a good job cleaning the bathroom, she came in, flung Comet everywhere, and said “try again.” If we didn’t put our dirty laundry downstairs in the morning, she hung it out on the bushes in our front yard for all our school friends to see.

 This made us roll about in hysterics. One drastic morning, she loaded the dirty laundry into our little red wagon and left it sit in front of our school. I have now become a Holy Name legend because of it. Now, I realize those kids born to the psychologically wonderful mothers would need therapy after such an event, but we laughed our heads off and made our youngest sister Jackie pull the wagon home. It was that or a good swift kick in the pants.  The wagon was a much better alternative.  That was our mom, half cracked and loads of fun. We thought kids with bike helmets were nerds as we swung on the cat walk underneath the local bridge, 60 feet in the air. We threw tomatoes at cop cars and ran like the Dickens as the A+ mothered children lie clean in their beds. At the end of the day, we stayed up too late, watching ‘The Late Show’ and had popcorn for supper on Sundays, all the while snuggled under a blanket with too many siblings, feet above the register for the warm air, all wrapped around each other and giggling with mom who was always under there with us.

As we hit those difficult teenaged years, we all dropped over in shock when we found out that our friends thought she was the coolest mom ever!!!?? Who knew? She took them in as if they were her own, answered uncomfortable sex questions, advocated with coaches and parents and boy scout leaders, listened to them, and sincerely cared. Teens swarmed about our front porch and swung there even when she made us sing Kumbaya and Glory to the Father!

She gave us advice on boyfriends, prom dresses, and how to stay out of gossip. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” If we went to parties that we were too young for, she pulled up in the blazing red station wagon and yelled our names and beeped the horn until we emerged. “Don’t talk until we get home,” she would say as we angrily entered the car, “You will have all week to talk to me about it because you are grounded.” More Kumbaya on the front porch.

When she became our children’s grandmother, we again were amazed that she stayed out of the conflicts that new marriages can bring, unless of course she wanted to tell us off.  Then she spoke her piece and went home. With our kids, she took each one in as her own, except she fed them candy now instead of organic wheat germ like we had to eat, and laughs when they are naughty instead of making them stand with their noses together. Let’s just say every single grandchild knows exactly where the candy drawer is by the age that they can reach to open it. They love grandma’s, and as they grow into adults, her house has become the escape away from home to run to when things get too hot at our houses.

My goodness how do people stand perfect A+ mothers?  I mean, can you even beat them in Scrabble?  Do they drag your kids around on pieces of cardboard through the backyard until neither can even get up?  Do they fly down waterslides, sled hills and bike paths, still at the age of 70?

I’ll take my C+ mom over the world’s best any day. She’s funnier, prettier, more well-rounded than any of your super moms. She helps people in need, cries like a baby if you tell her a sob story, cares for so many without a word, and always has extra Velveeta and soda crackers if you’re hungry. She’s a blast on vacation, never meddles in her children’s marriages, and buys God-awful Christmas presents. But she’s mine and that’s good enough for me!

——————————————————–

Does it matter how your kids grade you?

How you grade yourself?

What does matter?

When you stand before God can you say, “I did my best”?

That I have had some successes? Some failures? And have cried over both?

Will you be able to say as their Mother, that I prayed for them and loved them?

Will God say to you, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Welcome Home”?

I hope so.

By Jeanne Levknecht