2010-05-06 / Front Page

Island moms reflect on motherhood

By Dara Chadwick

I still remember the advice my mother gave me on the day my daughter – my first child – was born: “Now you’ll know.”

But that wasn’t really advice, was it?

It was more like an ominous warning.

It turns out that motherhood is full of twists, turns and unexpected moments. As we prepare to honor all moms on Mother’s Day this Sunday, May 9, we asked some island moms to reflect on what they’ve learned, what they didn’t expect and the best – and worst – mothering advice they ever got.

Margaret Williams – mom to Maddie, 20; Nick, 18; Tom, 17; and Peter, 14 – said the best mothering advice she ever got was something she read: “If a teen isn’t saying ‘I hate you’ on a regular basis, you’re doing something wrong.”

Mothering teenagers, Williams said, is a very different experience than mothering young kids.

“Toddlers are physically tiring,” she said. “Teens are mentally tiring. And children need you more in their teen years than any other time in their life. The problem is they just don’t know it.”

Williams also said she’s learned that the “thing” you need most to be successful as a mother can’t be bought at ToysRUs or Walmart.

It’s a sense of humor, she said.

Still, as trying as motherhood can be at times, Williams said she wouldn’t trade the experience, nor would she trade “all the lessons my children taught me while I thought I was teaching them.”

When asked what most surprised her about being a mother, islander Suzanne O’Dell – mom to 12-year-old Liam and 9-yearold Annabel – said, “How deeply you can fall in love just seconds after meeting someone for the first time.”

And the best advice she ever got?

“Enjoy every moment because they grow up so fast,” she said. “That advice came from everyone: Taxi drivers, strangers at the grocery store, even a homeless woman on the street. A mother’s wisdom can come from anywhere.”

Kim Brown Ferguson – mom to 22-year-old Kirsten and 20- year-old Sydney – said she was shocked by the strength of her love for her girls.

“I was surprised by how fiercely protective and strong a mother’s love is towards her children,” she said. “The minute our girls were born, out came Mama Bear.”

When asked what she wished she knew about motherhood before having her children, Ferguson said, “That college really could cost up to $50,000 a year. We would have planned better.”

Ferguson said she’s “trying to let go” of her daughters, both of whom are now in college.

“I still talk to one, if not both of them, daily,” she said. “I think each stage posed different degrees of ease and difficulty, but for me, the toughest stage of all was the high school years, when the girls were dealing with peer pressure, learning to drive and going out at night. Now, I look at all the young moms who complain about wired toddlers and sleepless nights and think to myself, ‘Oh honey, just you wait…wait til they get to high school and want the car keys!’ In high school, you may get the impression that your kids don’t need you as much, but it is then that they need you the most.”

Ramona Bessinger – mom to 14-year-old Madelyne; 12-yearold Zachary; 6-year-old Beckett and 4-year-old Emerson – said she wouldn’t trade the sleepless nights, years of nursing, the pain, the adolescent angst, the toddler tears, the driving here and there, the endless recitals, dance lessons and all around continuum of addressing her four children’s needs for anything in the world.

“There are challenges with every age,” she said. “It is all hard work, but rewarding work. At the end of the day, I’ve earned my night’s sleep and my weekly pedicure.”

The best advice she ever got – from her own mother – was that she didn’t have to prove anything to anyone, Bessinger said.

“She said, ‘Let your children be themselves and embrace their personalities,’” she said, adding, “I’m glad to stay in the moment and learn with each tantrum, achievement and heartfelt hug.”

As for what surprised her most about being a mother, Williams said, “How much my mother did for me and how much I never appreciated it.”

Hmm…maybe that’s what my mother meant.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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