Madonna is known for a lot of things—many of which include or are limited to her naked body parts. But as much as she's remained wide open and in the A-list spotlight for over a quarter of a century as a singer, actress, dancer and entertainer, not a whole lot of the attention has been directed on what just might be her most successful role: mom.
The mother to four, Lourdes, 18, Rocco, 13, Mercy, 9, and David Banda, 9, has done a remarkable job of shielding her kids from the prying glare of fluorescent-lit jail cells and shiny tabloid magazines. On the rare occasions they're spotted publicly, her children are on humanitarian visits to third-world countries, attending religious ceremonies or just walking arm-in-arm with their mom throughout the course of everyday life.
Lourdes recently set off for her first year of college at the University of Michigan, and according to People, Madonna gave her eldest child some advice that easily puts her at the top of my Favorite Celebrity Parents list:
"Try to do everything in moderation, try not to kill all your brain cells, and try to go to class."
No one type of parenting style is right. But as far as I'm concerned, the kind of mom I want to be to my kids is one who they feel comfortable opening up to, no matter the topic. I've always let them know that the truth is always better than the alternative, and while I might get angry at them, I'll never stop loving them and will always help them.
That doesn't mean I'm not and won't continue to be realistic about what kids get into, though. Do I want my kids skipping class, having sex, drinking while underage or doing illegal drugs? Of course not. That being said, I'm also not going to drop dead of a heart attack from shock if I ever find out they actually do that stuff (although I might now, especially since they're in preschool and first grade). Madonna's single line of advice covers a lot of ground, including the fact that she knows some brain cells will die, some classes will be skipped and not everything will be done in moderation. And by acknowledging that fact to Lourdes, she also covers how much she loves her by leaving the door open for her to come and talk should any of those things come to pass in an unhealthy, illegal or unhappy way.
(Madonna's) not afraid to be honest about how she struggles as so many others do.
I don't get the impression that Madonna fashions herself as a buddy to her kids. Likewise, I am decidedly not friends with mine; that's a distinct privilege I hope to earn when they're older. No, I'm their mom—period. (You know, and also their chef, bather, nagger, chauffeur, cuddler, hugger, laundress, cheerleader, etc.) Besides, it's hard to be friends with someone who has these way of making you an insomniac.
“I'm very, you know, worried,” she said in an interview on the Today show about Lordes being in college. “‘Are you OK? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating right?’ You know, I set up a humidifier in her room with eucalyptus oil. I was worried about the fact that she didn't have enough towels, Q-tips, you know.”
If Madonna had only added "be kind" to her one line of advice, she might have elevated herself to an even higher status than my celebrity spirit mom-nimal. Yet it actually seems as if she has the whole kind-and-generous part covered already.
“I love taking all of my kids [to the African country of Malawi, where the two youngest were adopted],” she said on Today. “They walk into hospitals, and tell jokes and stories, and embrace children who are in some pretty extreme states health-wise. And they're not afraid. And I love that. And I love to see them behaving in a generous way towards human beings, you know, outside of their world.”
It's not just I think she's exceptional for doing what she can with and for her kids within the confines of who she is, but also how she's not afraid to be honest about how she struggles as so many others do who don't have her kind of resources—because you can have all the money and status in the world, but that doesn't buy you the ability to clone yourself.
“The more kids you have, the more responsibilities you have, the more you have to really be aware of time, time management, and juggling lots of balls in the air, and thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this is how am I gonna do this? How am I gonna promote my record and show up at my daughter's show?’” she said. “You know what I mean? It's a tug of war.”
There's no way her kids can live a normal normal life, but then again, who really does? That they're loved, thought of and cared for is what they need most. And that it's by the woman who once sang "Like a Virgin" while riding in a gondola steered by a man wearing a lion mask is just that much cooler. For me, anyway.