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Dear Reader: Celebrating Good-Enough Moms

Alayne Sulkin

Published on: May 01, 2017

bubbie and ari
Photo caption: Bubbie Shu and granddaughter Arielle, who turns 31 on May 12

“My kids learned more from the flawed, imperfect me, not the ideal mother I keep trying to become.” — Jody Allard, single mother of seven, “Letting go of the guilt” 

My mother, Bubbie Shu (z’l) (as she came to be known), was perfectly not perfect. She passed away a decade ago and to say I miss her is an extreme understatement. 

She was the absolute opposite of what comes to mind when you think of today’s doting helicopter parents. It was inconceivable that my inner city Chicago middle school math teacher mama would hover or rescue us, and equally unimaginable that I would call her to deliver forgotten homework. She set exceptionally high standards from chores (oops, I mean contributions) to piano lessons, from learning honesty to showing respect.

She was a remarkably good-enough mother, friend, sister, daughter, auntie and volunteer. She lived her Jewish values loud and proud and in many ways, her devotion to something grander than herself translated to love. My sibs and I sometimes survived but often thrived under her rule-laden “take no prisoners” parenting approach.

My own children were stunned to learn that their part-teddy bear, part-lion but all loving Bubbie never experienced some of the joys of our family’s nightly rituals like a good snuggle, cuddle or story in bed. But I don’t necessarily need the ivory tower research of a former Stanford University counselor to know that my mother managed to give her children the two most important gifts for a child’s early life: growing up in a loving home and doing chores. In other words, she gave us unconditional love, security, competency, independence, resourcefulness and self-reliance. 

Sounds simple, right?

Not so!

That’s especially true if you’re one of the 10,068 Washington state children living in foster care. This month’s cover story will hopefully debunk age-old myths about foster kids and inspire your family to assist in whatever way you can. Step in lightly and donate hours or dollars, or take a deep dive and aspire to fostering as many kids (114!) as Erika Thompson (“Let’s get real about foster care").

Finally, confirming my mother’s good-enough parenting approach a solid 50 years later is Kimberly Arthur of Seattle Children’s. Arthur juggles 4-year-old twins born at 26 weeks while being a clinical research scientist. She offers “compassion to go” to parents of children with health conditions or disabilities and along the way reminds us of the power of our year’s mission, #kindfulness (“Someone you should know").

And with that, I wish you a happy good-enough Mother’s Day!

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