Friday, June 30, 2006

Lives of Moms

"I think ballet and Tae Kwon Do go together. My new form even has a pas de chat in it."

Ballet class is over and I'm chatting with Carol, who's instructing while Suki is gone.

"Really? A grande pas de chat, with the front leg going out?" Carol demonstrates.

"No," I tell her. "Just the usual small one. Here's I'll show you. We start here--" I get into the back stance before the jump in Toi-Gye, then do the jump into the "t-stance low x-block," ki-happing.

I should point out that this conversation is taking place out in the ballet studio's hallway. I don't really realize how strange it is to be doing a tae kwon do move in a ballet studio hallway until I notice a couple of the moms looking at me kind of oddly.

They're the more typical ballet moms. Kind of like the more typical tae kwon do moms--moms who are there because they brought their children. They are not taking class. They are sitting and waiting, magazines in hand. They look their age. They are calm and full of decorum.

One says to me "Oh, my son took tae kwon do for a while."

"Yeah," I say. "Mine did, too, but they quit and I didn't want to. Besides, I think it'll be useful to know tae kwon do when they're teenagers."

"Yes, I had them take it so they could defend themselves," she answers, misunderstanding me.

"No. I meant that I will be glad to have a black belt when they get bigger than me."

Something about that encounter made me think again about different ways to be a mom.

I think lots of moms are really proud that they are giving up their own lives to sit in ballet studio hallways or spend half the day driving children from one activity to the next. I know moms who practically brag about having no time for themselves because they're always ferrying children from one place to another.

Clearly, I'm not that mom, and sometimes those moms make me feel a bit unsettled, like a slacker. Am I doing enough for my children? Should I be sacrificing more of my life so their lives will be fuller?

Of course it's not really that simple. Maybe those moms were the kind of people who didn't really like being involved in stuff. Or maybe they were glad to know their days of learning new things and being involved in activities were over.

And, really, my kids just aren't that interested in the many activities that kids do: they're not interested in team sports, not interested in boy scouts, etc. etc.

Still, the encounter raised the old doubt that (I would guess) moms often feel about how they're raising their children. Everyone has their own different way of being a mom and raising children. It's easy to see different ways and wonder if they're better than your own, not just different.

The day after this encounter occurred, I got a thank you note from a student. I'd been on her thesis committee and had her in two classes. We'd gotten to be friends of sorts, as she is a mom about my age.

Though most of the note was thanking me for my encouragement when she was a student, one sentence wasn't, and it stayed with me. "I appreciate your focus on your family."

To her, I'm mostly a college professor. But she knows that I'm a mom, too. And she got to see how I balanced those two roles.

Maybe in some way, I'm providing students--non-traditional ones and also those younger ones--with one more image of how a mom might live her life, loving her children, being there for her family, and also nourishing her own intellect, body, and soul.

I need to remember that next time I have doubts.

No comments: