The Parent Hood

Dear Teenage Daughter

I see you there.

I see you struggling to find yourself. To find your place. To deal with the cavalcade of emotions that assault you daily. With the confusion of growing up. With your parents’ divorce. With navigating relationships and responsibilities and life.

I see you, and I remember.

I want to help you, but please know that my help won’t come packaged the way you think it ought.  I do you no good, in the long run, by pandering.

I will stand strong in my place as your mother. I will share with you the wisdom I have gathered along the way.  You will often scoff at my wisdom but it won’t stop me from sharing it.  You will know who I am, how I am, and where I stand.

I am not without compassion or empathy, but I will not bend to your will.

I will love you regardless of the arrows you shoot at me, for I know you are dealing with hurt yourself and I am a convenient and safe target to lash out at. Part of my job is to know when to keep my mouth shut when you loose your arrows on me.

You should know those shots you take hurt. They leave me in tears and temporarily incapacitated, questioning my parenting. But I don’t serve you by being weak and allowing your teen angst to leave me questioning what I know.

Here is what I know:

I am a strong woman, and I am raising you to be a strong woman.

A strong woman is clear about who she is and what she will and will not stand for.

Because I am a strong woman, I will protect you from certain truths about your parents that you do not need to know.  You think you know enough about things to make judgments about me, about our situation, to pick a side, to draw conclusions. You don’t know nor do you ever need to pick a side. You can choose both sides. Furthermore, you never will know these things because I am your mother and it is my desire to protect you from some truths, even if doing so leaves you judging me more harshly than you otherwise might.  I do this for your own benefit, as a good parent should.

I am not without flaws and shortcomings. I have made many mistakes along the way. But I am no victim. A victim stays down. I do not, nor will I ever. Every single time I’ve been set back, whether due to my own blunders or through the fault of others, I have never failed to pick myself up and carry on. I have never abdicated my responsibilities. I have never not stepped up.

The only person I control is myself and I take that responsibility very seriously. My life is a series of decisions I have made, not I single one which I regret for I made the best decisions I could at the time based on the information and circumstances in front of me. I don’t control others, but I choose how I react and respond to them.  I am in the driver’s seat of my life and always have been.

So bring it. Bring your venom. Bite hard and let it seep into my bloodstream.  I am a strong woman and I will survive.  I will still love you. I will continue walking the high road in spite of this hurt.

One day you’ll understand, because one day you’ll be a strong woman.

I will help you get there with my strength. And on that day in the future, you and I will walk arm in arm, two strong women. When that day comes, you will understand what I did back when you were a teenager and why I did it, and you will appreciate it. You’ll seek my forgiveness for the hurtful things you did and said to me but you’ll realize you’ve had it all along.

Because I’m a strong woman and you are my daughter.

Love,

Mom

By |January 26th, 2017|Not even a little funny, The Parent Hood|Comments Off on Dear Teenage Daughter

The Old Mother

momThe youngest in any family is often said to be spoiled.  There are many theories behind why this is.

Some feel the mother has pretty much just given up. She is older, tired. She’s done many years of parenting from the firstborn all the way to this last child and she’s just, well…. be right back. I’m going to take a little nap.  Keep an eye on the kid for me, OK?  I’m sure she’ll be fine – she’s practically raised herself.  I just need to rest my eyes for a minute…

Even if you practically sleep through it, still they grow up.

Another theory is that it’s not giving up as much as it is holding on, as if by holding on to the youth of your offspring, you somehow hold onto your own youth.

I was struggling with my teenager trying to clip the mittens to her winter coat, but kids that age are pretty damn strong and really resent having their mothers use them as a means of groping their ways through a midlife crises.  They’ll fight you on this.  They don’t need nor want to be treated like babies.  In retrospect diapering really was the easiest part of parenting, but remember – we were happy to leave that shit behind. Literally. Don’t linger here – it’s just creepy.

Try as you might to hold onto the days when your cherubic young ones needed you so, still they grow up.

Perhaps most of us old mothers have a little of the giving up and a little of the holding on within us.  There is a third theory, and it’s the one, in my opinion, that dominates why these youngest children seem a little more indulged than their older siblings were.

Perspective. 

The more years that have passed, the more perspective a mother gains along the path.  Not only have the children done their share of growing up, but so has the mother.

Perhaps she realizes how fast it goes and wants to worry less and enjoy more. Perhaps she has concluded it’s pointless to spend even another minute squabbling about how messy a bedroom is.  Perhaps she knows that a report card with a comment saying “She talks too much.” isn’t the end of the world, not even close.  Perhaps she is even amused by such comments these days. Perhaps she just doesn’t give a flying fu…  um, what I mean is perhaps she doesn’t mind much if the child doesn’t eat her broccoli. Let’s face it – broccoli is gross. I’m with the kid on this one.

Regardless of whether we’re holding on or giving up or have simply gained a broader perspective, still they grow up.

Still they grow up.

There we are, us older mothers, left wondering… what now? To whom will we be the answer to everything? Who will revel in our ability to put peanut butter and bananas on Ritz crackers and serve them on fancy hors d’oeuvre trays? Who will laugh at our stupid jokes? Think our stories interesting? Let us read them rhyming books? Who will think we’re amazing?

And just when we think that gap unfillable, they lay a baby in our arms and call us grandmother.

Lin and Dex

 

 

 

By |February 25th, 2014|The Parent Hood|Comments Off on The Old Mother

A letter to my firstborn daughter on the eve of her wedding

KatieandScottIt’s not really the true eve of her wedding.  That will be Thursday night, but we’ll be all rehearsing and offline and since I know she reads my blog at work (like mother, like daughter…) and she’s off work from Wednesday onward, I’m writing this now.  It’s the eve of the eve of the eve.

Dear Katie,

I have read that good mothers will pull their daughters aside prior to the wedding date to explain to them all the important things about marital intimacy, the birds and the bees.

I considered the prospect of you and me having that conversation and then couldn’t stop laughing.  I don’t think we’ll go there.  Though if you have any specific questions, I welcome you to ask them so I can blush and quickly change the subject.  Plus – these days, people have the Internet for all those answers and also you’ve probably figured all that out by now.  (And if that’s the case, do you mind if I ask you a few questions??)

It is funny thinking about the taboo subject here.  I’m not sure if I did an adequate job imparting information to you in that area, but I tried.  In fact, a few of my most favorite Katie stories involve the topic of the birds and the bees.

When you and your sister were fairly young, I bought the book Where Did I Come From? and the two of you sat on either side of me that first time so I could read it to you.  It was all illustrated and stuff.  Remember?  I really should have pre-read because even though it was said to be age appropriate, I found myself getting embarrassed and I tried to sneakily skip pages, but NOOOOOOO… there you were “Mom, you missed a page.  Mom, you missed another page.”  Not sure how I got through that, but I remember handing you the book afterward and saying “Here, you guys can just keep this up on your bookshelf in your bedroom and look at it whenever you want.  You can read well enough now – it’s all yours!”

There must have been some intervening discussions here and there, right?  I’m sure there were.  (If not, don’t tell me.  I’ll just feel guilty.)

The next time I specifically remember the topic coming up was at dinner one night many years later – all of us assembled, including Bill and his dad.  Do you recall – you announced that you were officially the last virgin in your group of friends.  I don’t remember if my reply was shocked silence or hysterical laughter.

It wasn’t long after that we were getting you ready to go away to college.  You were 18 and we shopped for all the things you’d need.  I insisted on sending a big box of condoms, no questions asked.  You had only been at school for a couple of weeks when you called to say “Hey, Mom, send more condoms.  That first box is already gone!”

You have always – always – made me laugh.  I’m pretty sure you came straight from the womb with a fully formed sense of humor.  (Don’t listen to your father – you get it from ME.  I’m the funny one, dammit.)

I can’t believe you’re getting married.  I mean, I totally can, of course, but jeez – it went by so fast!  Well, it sort of dragged in the middle there, but other than that – lightning fast.

I feel like I ought to impart some wisdom to you, but the coffers are low.  Plus, really, writing about it here on my public blog is more about exploiting the whole thing in exchange for ego-stroking comments.  Being an over-sharer and an attention whore yourself, I’m sure you can understand.  (If not, shoot me an email and I’ll delete this whole post and replace it with a knock-knock joke.  Or even better –  how about this:  Why wouldn’t the baby shrimp share his toys?  Because he was a little shellfish.  Get it?  Selfish/shellfish?  Funny stuff, huh?)

In the absence of wisdom, you get this instead:

Traditional sentiment:  Never go to bed angry.

Mom wisdom:  Going to bed angry is preferable to murdering your spouse.  Weigh your options carefully.

Traditional sentiment:  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Mom wisdom:  Under normal circumstances, I would agree with this.  But if there is ever a time when there are infants not sleeping through the night and toddlers in diapers drawing crayon murals on the walls, well, then absence just makes the one left at home homicidal.  I think what I’m saying is this – if you ever find yourself in that situation, make sure you’re the one sleeping diagonally with twelve pillows in a comfy hotel bed far away.  You’ll get more sleep that way.

Traditional sentiment:  Home is where the heart is.

Mom wisdom:  Sometimes, your heart may be at  a beach far, far away or anywhere that is NOT home.  Hopefully, in those cases, your finances will cooperate and you can leave home far behind for awhile and go hang out with your heart and your husband and maybe some margaritas on the beach for awhile.

Traditional sentiment:  The best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother.

Mom wisdom: I’m not saying that this isn’t a good gift, but I’d just like to encourage the man to consider the gift of boarding school in addition.  Those two things together?  Pretty awesome.  Well, I’d imagine them to be pretty awesome is what I’m saying.

Traditional sentiment:  The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Mom wisdom:  Uh, no.  Wrong.  I won’t even bother to correct that explicitly because we all know the true way to a man’s heart is generally a little lower than the stomach.  (Actually, I believe there are two ways to his heart:  #1 via the bits in his pants and #2 straight through his chest cavity.  Which route you choose depends upon what effect you’re attempting to have on his heart.  Choose wisely.)

Traditional sentiment:  Choose your battles.

Mom wisdom:  Choose your battles, sure.  But also:  plan your strategy, bulk up your arsenal, raise your army, and attack when his defenses are down.   If you’re choosing your battles, you ought to optimize your chances for kicking ass; that’s all I’m saying.

Traditional sentiment:  Honesty is the best policy.

Mom wisdom:  Too much honesty is enough to get your ass kicked, and rightfully so.  Especially if you have PMS.  Trust me – it’s better to bite your tongue until it’s bloody than to honestly share everything that is on your mind.  Learn from my mistakes, I beg of you.

Traditional sentiment:  Love is never having to say you’re sorry.

Mom wisdom:  Ha.  Haha.  HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  When you’ve really messed up, apologize profusely; crawl on your knees in contrition.  Promise things you said you’d never do in order to earn forgiveness.  Say you’re sorry a million ways.   And mean it.

~~~~~~~~~~~

On a more serious note, just do your best.  It’s all anyone can do and it’s usually more than good enough.  Take every opportunity you can to laugh – nothing diffuses anger more quickly than a good one-liner.   Walk away when you need to walk away, but not for too long – make your way back together.   Bend, but don’t break.  Never give up the essence of who you are.

Most importantly – name your first born after your mother, even if it’s a boy (it’ll help him build character).

You two will be fine – you’re both awesome and funny and smart.

And loved.  Very much.

Congratulations and best of luck as you take your first steps together in this new chapter of your lives.

Love,

Mom

ps:  Tell Scott to call me Linda.  None of that bullshit about what to call the inlaws here, OK?  Promise?  I’m going to test him on that.  He won’t get away with “Hey, you…” or anything like that.

pps:  Maybe he already does call me by my name – I can’t recall what he calls me.  But now that I’ve drawn a line in the sand, I’ll be paying attention.

ppps:  Three days!!!

 

By |August 30th, 2010|Indiscriminate Drivel, Married Life, The Parent Hood|Comments Off on A letter to my firstborn daughter on the eve of her wedding