"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Even bad moms teach you something

It's Mother's Day and everyone is talking about their moms, and so I feel compelled to do a Mother's Day post because, well, you're all doing it. I might as well do it, too.

Yes, your mom was right: if you all jumped off a cliff, I'd probably be there with you.

I don't talk about my mom. When my friends talk about theirs, and they sooner or later look for me to add to the conversation, I just mumble, "My mom and I didn't have a good relationship," and leave it at that. My friends, God love 'em, don't press me any further.

My mom was a great room mother when I was in elementary school. She made wonderful treats for all the kids. She loved to make Christmases special, and made great Easter baskets. She fussed over us when we got hurt. She taught me to write cursive, and to do arithmetic.

She was also extremely self-centered. The world revolved around her, and I slowly came to understand how everything she did for us was really done for herself. If there was no one there to applaud, it wasn't worth doing. She'd make thirty hand-painted cookies and goodie bags shaped like clowns for our class, but wouldn't pack a lunch for me to take to school. Everyone knew that she was the one who taught me to write cursive and do arithmetic. The epitome of her behavior was when I married Dale, and she told my sister-in-law that she knew I married a black man to spite her

And if you ever did anything she didn't like, it was as if the planet stopped rotating. The TV, which was always on, turned off, the house was dark, and she took to her bed, where she would remain until sufficient groveling had been accomplished. I don't know how long she took to her bed when I married my hubby, but while I was at home, it was an eggshell life.

She lived vicariously through me for years, attempting to control not just my actions but my thoughts, until I finally moved 2,000 miles away. I could never establish a healthy relationship with her, so I kept her at a distance, both in mileage and in emotions, until her death several years ago. I hate to say this, but I felt a huge weight lift when she passed away.

It's possible she had some kind of issue - depression, bipolar, etc. They didn't have those diagnoses back in the day. I know a lot about her childhood that explains her behavior. Unfortunately, none of that understanding helped me when I was a child.

But still, she taught me a lot. These are the things I've learned, and tried to do, for my son:

1. Love the child you have, not the one you want - and let them have their life.

2. Say you're sorry when you've messed up. If you don't teach them how to do it, how will they learn?

3. Doing a bunch of stuff that you want to do for your kiddo is nice, but if you're doing it for the attention, be honest - it's not for them. Be willing sometimes, without martyrdom, to do ONE thing for your child that you'd just rather not do. And, for Pete's sake, don't rub it in! Just show them that people sometimes make sacrifices for their loved ones.

4. Give them a hug even when you'd like to feed them to the neighbor's python. They need to know you'll always love them.

5. Respect them, especially as they become adults. Yes, they're going to make mistakes and do stupid things. So did you. When you're giving them advice, ask yourself: would I say this to a friend? If the answer's No, keep your mouth shut. (This is the one I'm working on!)

The biggest thing I learned was what I understood the moment I held Marcus in my arms: he was a treasure I wasn't supposed to keep. I think that one realization is helping me the most as he transitions into adulthood and independence. (Okay, he's a music major - we're HOPING for the independence.)

What did your mother teach you? Oh, BTW, go to the alwayscoffee blog today for a beautiful, upbeat, uplifting post on a mother who is a jewel.

And if you haven't voted in the poll, I'm always interested in your opinion.

1 comment:

Helen Hanson said...

Some of us learn by watching a good example. Some of us learn by doing the opposite of the bad example. Some never learn. Here's to learning any way we can!

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.