Mother’s Day is around the corner
So I’m thinking about mothers.
I remember sitting at United Dairy Farmers eating mint chip ice cream with a bunch of my homeschooling friends after support group one night. Someone made a comment about her mother. A derisive one. A “we all know this is true” kind of off-the-cuff critique. It was made with warmth and humor, though the sentiment of frustration was real.
What followed was a cascade of “knowing” remarks about our mothers.
“She’s so controlling.”
“She never did approve of homeschooling so I just try not to talk about it.”
“My mother—she still doesn’t get it.”
“My mom treats me like I’m fifteen! It’s like I never grew up.”
On and on the comments went. Most of the time there was laughter, but behind the laughs I knew there was pain. These daughters had memories of not being heard or understood. They had ongoing evidence that the choices they were making today didn’t meet with their mother’s approval. Ouch. Even if the daughters loved their moms (and they did, absolutely!), they still felt that sting that comes from parental disapproval.
I listened along. The conversation shifted at one point to kids. Now we were griping good-naturedly about how our kids were making ridiculous choices or were resisting our better ideas or couldn’t fulfill their responsibilities and we were put upon to do things for them.
In one of those “Matrix-style” moments, I saw reality split.
We were mothers, resenting our mothers, for not allowing us to make our own choices, for not respecting our skill to live our own lives, for thinking they knew better than we did all the time, and for conveying it in a way that caused pain.
On the flip side, our kids were behaving in ways that we didn’t like and had plans for the future we found unnerving and they didn’t like our advice. We were belittling our kids among ourselves… which made me wonder if that belittlement wasn’t also felt by those same kids, like these adults felt about their own childhoods.
After some time went by, I finally spoke up.
“You know, I hope our kids don’t talk about us the way we just talked about our moms. And I hope we don’t behave to our kids in the ways we resent in our moms.”
Of course, I have a really awesome mom. I don’t spend much time resenting or talking negatively about her. She modeled for me what it means to be supportive and to trust me, and she gives space for me to be who I need to be. I feel like an adult around her. Consequently, I try to be that for my kids because I want them saying good stuff about me to their friends.
So as Mother’s Day approaches, maybe ask yourself: “How do I want my kids to talk about me behind my back?” And then adjust how you mother and love accordingly.
Cross-posted on facebook.