I received a very touching email this week from a reader of the Neighborhood Archive. Her email included a short passage she had written about the influence that Mister Rogers has on her today as a mother. With her permission, you can read her comments below...
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about what my vocation is in life. I mean, I guess I know what it is now. . .if it isn't being a wife and mother I am not sure what it is! I guess Facebook is something that really gets you thinking. . .you see all these people you went to high school and college with and they seem so. . .successful. Wow- they are doctors, lawyers, professors, ministers, politicians, artists. . .these are the people you sat next to in class (or maybe skipped class with to go to a bar. . .not that I would ever do that!), clowned around with, went to parties with. You took the same tests, competed or performed side by side, worked on teams together, and you always felt like equals. But, all of the sudden (or maybe not so sudden. . .it has been a while, right?) you look around and realize that everyone has become their grown up selves with all sorts of grown up accomplishments. I am pretty confident that I have friends are going to cure diseases, write bestselling books, compose great music, make amazing contributions to the world and be remembered for a long, long time.
It's not that I'm jealous, it just makes me wonder what I'm doing for the good of the cause, or what potential I may have inside me. I look down at my grown up self. . .a cushy mom/human kleenex wearing a purple sweatshirt and leggings, hair in a ponytail, baby formula all over my collar and smudgy mascara. No awards on my wall or accolades, no advanced degrees, no need for pantyhose or manicures, no time for social activism, never mind time to finish my coffee before it gets cold. As I am sure every mother does, I have puzzled over this a lot. When you stay at home with your children, it is easy to feel like you don't get anything done. There is no satisfaction of a straight A report card, pile of freshly graded papers or a completed project to turn in. The dish mountain in the sink diminishes only to reappear again within hours, the laundry is folded and barely put away before the baskets are full again, meals are prepared and eaten and the refrigerator is bare before you even had time to recover from the last adventure at the grocery store with tiny helpers in tow. A mother's work never ends. No one has been banging down my door to give me awards, and my kids haven't given me a performance evaluation lately, let alone a raise! If it doesn't make you act like a bit of a martyr every once in a while, you are probably a saint.
So, what's a person to do? I'm a big believer in being content with what you have and making the most of every circumstance in life so I wanted to reconcile all of these thoughts and feelings. Fortunately, my good friend Mister Rogers came just in time with the answer my heart needed. My boys and I watch the Neighborhood together as a special ritual almost every day. I try not to do anything else as we watch. . .just be fully present with my children in the moment and enjoy watching them be nurtured and educated by the show I grew up loving. We were watching the Neighborhood Opera "A Star for Kitty" when my answer came from the musical puppets and friends. The Kitty wants to learn to twinkle like the stars in the sky, and tries to twinkle by thinking happy thoughts. You have to be able to suspend reality for a bit to accept a tiger puppet dressed like a star hidden in a toothpaste tube and a trumpet playing half moon as completely natural. I won't even go into why the cat is in the sky in the first place taking a twinkling class, but she tries in vain to twinkle, until she does a selfless act only to realize she has started sparkling without trying to at all. As I watched, I thought. . .wait. . .that's me! I'm Lady Aberlin dressed like a cat! Nah, not really, but that's how I sparkle! By putting others first. I may not be shining bright, making contributions (or making much money for that matter), being successful, winning awards or changing the world. But my boys. . .they are my work. They are my legacy. They are my sparkle. If I put their little hearts and feelings first and nurture their spirits, they could grow to be kind loving, people who make the world a better place. Maybe they could grow into someone as great as Fred Rogers! That seems pretty important to me.
In our world of instant gratification, sometimes it is hard to remember the things that are eternal. Leave it to Mister Rogers to still remind me over 25 years after I was one of his little viewers that it is the things on the inside that count after all.