Hello there my lovelies! It's Sunday, and its Mother's Day! So in honor of all the beautiful “Mothers” out there, I decided to post the story I recently wrote for the Mom's Who Write anthology, The Future of Us.
My entry wasn't accepted to the anthology-probably mostly because of it's meandering nature- so I'm not heartbroken. I don't think I met the challenge of the entry, but the essay was meant as a love-note to the child in my life who made me a mom, so it felt perfect for the Mother's Day post!
So to all you mothers out there--those who were blessed with biological children and those who chose to be 'mother' figures. To those who can't have kids and those who choose not to. To those whose kids have four legs and those whose kids aren't here yet. To those who struggled as moms, and those who picked up the peices, Happy 'Mother's' day. We love you!
A love note to the Class of 2023
The 2022-23 school year has been an emotional rollercoaster for me. And as I thought about how to write something that would encapsulate my feelings about The Future of Us, I found myself thinking a lot about the past.
Namely, how fast time seems to have flown by.
The oldest of my three kids is a senior this year. She’s growing up, graduating, making plans for the future, and will soon be leaving the nest, and her little sister won’t be far behind. (Thankfully, I have a gap baby that is quite a bit younger than his sisters for me to hold onto for about thirteen more years, but I digress).
Anyway, as I attempted to figure out what to write, my mind kept circling back to my oldest daughter, and her fellow seniors who will, in fact, be the next future of us as the newest adult members of society.
Now, I'm not an authority on anything, and I would never proclaim to be. But I know a few things about a few things, and of one thing I’m certain–my kids will never stop amazing me. My life has been molded by a lot of influences, but none more than my kids.
I believe, in a lot of ways, them and their entire generation, are heads and tails above where we were at their age. Their inability to “live with” the status quo has already changed the world, probably more than they realize. And I think they’ll continue to leave an impermeable stamp on society, that we can't begin to fathom.
As I tried to wrap my head around how they got that way, I kept coming back to their influences, and my own. As my kids grow up, I'm reminded daily that their whole lives are cataloged and commented on, on social media. Their generation doesn’t hide from their unfortunate decisions, in fact their mistakes are often a focal point of what makes them who they are. And aside from the few stray television shows and books whose social commentary commented on “taboo” topics, that’s not something we really had. But I’ve also realized, the future leaders of our world are often getting their inspiration and education from the same places we did, but the difference is, how they interpret them.
You can see the differences in all different forms of media. For example, if you've watched a Disney©️ movie in the past few years, you know that they acknowledge the outdated, inappropriate often racist and misogynistic views in the older movies, and they acknowledge they were wrong then and wrong now.
The Gilmore Girls, is another example. It began in my generation, but its effects continue to resonate as, with the help of video streaming, an entirely new generation of viewers have come to love it. The show has so many parallels to my life that I won't go into, because that's not what this story is about. But it's a great example of how the things that impacted me, ultimately rubbed off on my kids. Also, how the influences of the past will continue to contribute to the future.
If you're still confused about how I plan to connect the two seemingly disparate topics of a pop-culture tv show to the Class of 2023, you're not alone. But I think I’ll get there. So without further ado, please read the wise words of the eighteen-year-old valedictorian of the fictitious Chilton Academy. She said it more eloquently than I ever could, so I’ll let her explain it for me:
“I live in two worlds. One is a world of books…”
And music… And movies… And television. The ultimate bibliophile, audiophile, and television and film buff–I find inspiration in almost everything I read, listen to, or watch. And to be quite honest, the amount I have always escaped into different realities is probably unhealthy. I find myself falling in love with book boyfriends, relating so hard to a lyric that I will back it up and listen again, and again, and again. And on more than one occasion I’ve wished I could transport myself into my television, because I was convinced I could never find someone I vibe so hard with in the real world. But no show, book, or song has ever touched me quite like the Gilmore Girls.
“She filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models from Jane Austen to [Amy Sherman Palladino] to [Ruth Bader Ginsberg] to [Patty Labelle]”
The Gilmore Girls (written by Amy Sherman Palladino), aired in the early 2000s, and I was barely an adult when the spunky single mom bounced onto the screen. She begged for coffee, before seamlessly batting off a guy trying to hit on her, then turned into the most lioness momma when he moved on to her daughter, all-the-while remaining dazzlingly funny. Her cookey personality was captivating and I have been a hardcore fan since day one. I was a fan Pre-DVR and streaming services, when I had to wait until Thursday nights for new episodes to come on. It was during the time in history when I'd curse the person who dared call me during “my show,” and hold my pee until I got a UTI rather than leave before commercial break.
There are a lot of reasons I love it, but the main one is, it reminds me of some of the most important moments of my life. The show, and its characters, held me up through some major life milestones. I married my husband during the series run time, and went through my first pregnancy and the birth of my oldest daughter. I went through postpartum depression, got pregnant, lost a child, had a third pregnancy and second daughter, all during the seven seasons Lorelei and her daughter stole the hearts of America.
While I was a smidge older than Lorelei, I found her character relatable in so many ways. Like her, I was so young–barely twenty-one–when my oldest daughter was born. And while I was a mature twenty-one-year-old, I realize now, in many ways, I was still a baby myself. I was actually almost the same age as the actress who played Rory. And I had zero ideas what to do with a child because I was still trying to figure out how to be a fully developed human.
So I took inspiration from the people around me. Unfortunately, I didn't have a ton of real-life role models to show me what it meant to be a good mom. But I found Lorelei’s parenting style so inspiring, that, ultimately, I modeled my own after it. Not exactly, obviously (that would be weird). But I adopted philosophies. Like how I’ve always tried to be completely open and honest with my kids, even when it's uncomfortable. How I wanted our house to be fun, and open and full of laughter. And how I never wanted my kids to doubt my love for them. Because if Lorelei proved nothing else in her years of zany, honest, cookiness, it was that she loved her daughter fiercely. And that was a role model worth following.
“Richard and Emily Gilmore are kind, decent, unfailingly generous people. They are my twin pillars, without whom I could not stand. I am proud to be their grandchild.”
I grew up with a different kind of terrible parents than Lorelei did, but terrible nonetheless and not in the redeeming way Richard and Emily were. Richard and Emily, while they made their fair-share of mistakes, always did what they thought was best for Lorelei. And ultimately, they owned up to the majority of them, and did their best to make it up to both Lorelei and Rory.
My house, as a kid, was oppressive and abusive. And I’m under no delusions that this wasn't pretty common in the eighties and nineties so I know my next thought is likely to resonate with most people from my generation.
I, like Lorelei, promised from a young age that I would be the opposite of my parents in almost every way. Namely, I never wanted my kids to be afraid of me or afraid to tell me anything. And while I would have loved to be my kids’ best friend, like Lorelei was, I'm not sure I am. Maybe when they were younger, but now that my oldest is an adult, I realize it's almost impossible to maintain being “best friends” with your kids forever.
Like every relationship, our closeness ebbs and flows, but our bond is probably stronger than most, and I know that I achieved my main goal. Which was that my kids would always know I love them. That they’d understand that they are my favorite humans in the entire world and that nothing they could ever say or do would change that. Also, that my love was never contingent on anything, and it is given freely and often.
“My second one is populated with characters slightly less eccentric, but supremely real, made of flesh and bone, full of love, who are my ultimate inspiration for everything.”
My world is populated by the three of the most fearless, confident characters I have ever met in real life. My kids are well-rounded, reasonably-adjusted, intelligent, talented, humble, kind and beautiful. I know you're probably thinking “well.. you're biased,” and you'd be right. And I'm not saying they're without flaws, that would be ridiculous. But they are all three so full of love, and are truly my inspiration for everything.
There was a time in my life where I would've never dreamt of submitting to an anthology. I would've never thought myself worthy, or good enough. But just like Rory did for Lorelei, my kids are the best cheerleaders on my team. And I know I’m singling her out–even though despite their playful jabs to the contrary, I love all three of my kids differently but equally–but my oldest is the inspiration for this story.
Mostly because she's a new adult, a member of the class of 2023 so an almost high school graduate, and entering the season of senior “lasts.” I find myself incredibly nostalgic because she was my first baby and the one who made me “mom.” She let me practice on her, but she wasn't the “first pancake.” And she has, in so many ways, helped me find my way back to the person I always wanted to be. But also because she is as much of a fan of the Gilmore Girls as I am.
And in my humble opinion, like Rory, she has turned out to be an extraordinary, fully-formed human who has so much to offer the world. She plans to become a teacher, and will, no doubt, be an incredible influence on future generations.
“As [I guided her] through these incredible eighteen years, I don’t know if she ever realized that the person I most wanted to be was her. Thank you, [my daughter]: you are my guidepost for everything.”
As my kids grow up, I realize that they each teach me every bit as much as I've ever taught them, if not more. I don't know that I ever wanted to be them, exactly, but I do wish I had a smidge of their confidence. They fall headfirst into new adventures, and unashamedly fail nearly as much as they succeed, and that is incredibly beautiful.
Have I wiped tears from their eyes because they were upset they didn't achieve their goals? Absolutely. But did that stop them from trying again? It most certainly didn't. Almost the entirety of their generation seems to have learned from our generation that you only get one life. And if you aren't doing things that make you happy, then why are you even living? And just because you don't get it the first time, doesn't mean you shouldn't keep trying.
My oldest, in particular, has recently taught me one of the best lessons I never knew I needed to learn. A couple years ago, I had a cancer scare, I was working a lot–and mom-ing even more. I felt fried and, for a lack of better words, unfulfilled. It's not that I was unhappy with my life, I love my husband, I love my kids, but I felt like I was just going through the motions without actually experiencing the joy of what I was doing.
One night, during a fairly typical conversation with my daughter (while probably watching the Gilmore Girls for the four-hundredth time), we got on the topic of what I wanted to do when I was her age. I've never hidden from my kids that I married young, had them young, and while I don't regret any of it, ultimately those choices changed the course of what I imagined my life would look like. I went back to college as an adult, got a sensible degree in accounting, and I earn a decent living. But I pretty much hate my job. I like my company, I like my boss, and I'm good at what I do, but I find it tedious, and unfulfilling.
So one night, after a particularly trying day, my oldest daughter asked me what I would do, if I could do anything. If I hadn't gotten married and had them, what did I think I would have ended up as. Honestly, I never spent much time thinking about that, because I don't like dwelling on what could have been. But when she asked, I realized I didn't really know. I went to college straight out of high school, but after a series of bad decisions, I ended up leaving after a couple months. I planned to become a lawyer back then, but after some other life experiences, I now realize that wasn't something I would've wanted to do either.
So after going back and forth I finally remembered how much I liked writing. I remembered once upon a time I had mentioned wanting to be a writer, but that wasn't a job that “paid well” so it was never anything I seriously considered an option. So I told my daughter I would like to write. I always dreamed of being a published author.
At the time, she was about sixteen, and she looked at me and asked simply, “then why don't you?” Not “why didn't you,” in the past tense, but why wasn't I now? Because in her mind, it was a no-brainer. If I wanted to do something, why wouldn’t I do it?
Of course I reminded her that my job helped support them, and it's not as easy as an adult to just “do what you want.” But she went on to point out that I didn't need to quit what I was doing to write. It's possible to do more than one thing at a time and that if anyone could do it, I could. Because she believed in me. And I didn't need to write and get published tomorrow, so I could do it a step at a time. Write, then figure out what to do next. And I remember very vividly thinking to myself, “why didn't I think of that?”
It was such a simple thought. I could write if I wanted to, nothing was stopping me. And I know I haven't mentioned him much, but I have a very supportive partner that has never discouraged me from doing anything that would make me happy.
So I did it. I wrote a book. Then another and another. And I have been steadily writing, and building my presence and skills, and pursuing publishing for over two years.
All that to say, my kid is a good egg. After I started writing, my whole family immediately jumped on board to support me. They listen (albeit maybe not always enthusiastically) to long conversations about my groups and “writing friends.” They help me work out issues with my manuscripts (or more aptly provide a presence so I don't feel crazy just talking to myself while I work it out). They vote on endless versions of covers for books that aren't even close to being published yet. I know this isn't about me, but I know that unwavering support isn't always the case, so it's important they know how much it means to me, and that I don't take any of them for granted. But I don't think that first conversation with my oldest daughter will ever fade from my memory, because it was the catalyst. And it's when I realized I had, in fact, become a mom like Lorelei.
“My mother never gave me any idea that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be.”
I'm not sure when I taught her, or even if it was all me, but somehow, through all my stumbling, and all my missteps, my daughter learned the lesson that she can be whomever she wants to be. And she can adequately convey that endless optimism to others, because she did it for me. That's how I know future generations taught by my kid are going to be unstoppable.
“They” always tell us the things we’re supposed to teach our kids. I'm not sure who your “they” is, but mine have historically been the voices in my head of the not-so-great adult influences from my childhood. And those voices are frequently at odds with what I believe or hope to be true. So I find my mind running in circles, never believing I am good enough and that my decisions and world views are probably wrong.
Be strong—but not too strong because you don’t want to seem pushy.
Be brave—but also cautious because there are bad people in the world.
Be humble—but be proud of your achievements.
Be yourself—but not too much, because you might not be accepted.
Be kind—but don’t be a doormat.
Be grateful—but don’t let anyone overshadow your light.
You can be whatever you want to be—but also be practical. Life is expensive and you need to set reasonable goals.
The list could be endless, but ultimately, the voices are filled with the things that hold me back from my potential and are the opposite of how I want my kids to feel. I have fought these disparate feelings my whole life, but somehow what my kid managed to learn was Be You.
And the You you are is perfect as long as you're happy. Does that mean they shouldn't be striving to be the best versions of themselves? Not at all. Does that mean I gave them pipe dreams that they wouldn’t have to work hard for what they wanted? Absolutely not. But if we, as a generation, could teach future generations anything, it's that life is hard. No matter who you are, what you have, or where you're from, life is hard for everyone. And it's short, so if you aren't happy, you should do something about it.
It seems like a simple concept, but sometimes it takes a teenager asking you simply, “then why aren't you doing it?” to make you realize, it's not as hard as we sometimes make it out to be. Does that mean it's easy? No. But it isn't impossible, and when you look back on your life would you rather see that you tried and failed, or that you never tried?
So where I ended up, after all this reflection, is despite how hard it's been, despite how much I battle with feeling like I screwed it up, through it all, my kid has learned enough from me. Enough to know that she's enough. Enough to understand that sometimes just “fine” isn't good enough and you should push for more, but sometimes, “fine” is the best you can do, and that’s enough. Enough to know that we should never stop trying to be better versions of ourselves and learning from the influences of our past, present and future.
If a quarter of the kids of the class of 2023 are like my daughter, in my opinion, The Future of Us looks pretty bright. She has a level head on her shoulders and a drive unlike anyone I've ever met. She never fails to encourage someone to be their best self, and she’s always striving to learn how to make herself and the world a better place. She never stops growing, and learning and she doesn’t think she’s too good to take advice from anyone.
I can't wait to see where other Class of 2023 kids end up in a decade. But until then, my 2023 graduate will continue to be “my ultimate inspiration… my best friend, [and] the dazzling woman [to] whom I [gave]... my life’s blood…”
I love you my sweets, and even if this doesn’t make it in the anthology, you should never doubt how incredibly proud I am to be your mom.
Now that I've read it back, I am sure my story didn't meet the criteria, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway! And Happy Mother's Day!
-Rose Rayne Rivers
Comment below and tell the mom in your life Happy Mother's Day!
Also, in case you missed what motherhood is to me in last year's Mother's Day post, it was a good one, so here you go (https://www.roseraynerivers.com/post/my-two-cents-on-motherhood).
Also, let me know if you have any topics you want me to cover in the upcoming weeks!
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