My oldest daughter calls me, sometimes several times a day, to tell me little things that happened to her – she got cut off in traffic, found a dollar on the sidewalk, has a job interview – they all have the same level of importance in terms of “must tell mom”. She also wears her feelings all OVER her sleeve… no chance of anyone saying “I never am sure where I stand with that one.” She is abundantly compassionate, willing to give her last dime to someone who needs it more than she does. Remembering I once bounced a check buying things to send to victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, I know this could be a genetic tendency.
My younger daughter can go for a couple of weeks without communicating with me at all. She’s fiercely independent, makes decisions without consulting anyone, and tends to hold her feelings and emotions pretty close to the vest. I know for a fact that if my mother were alive today she would tell me she’s just like me. And given how distant she feels sometimes, it makes me hurt a little for how my mom must have felt when I was in my early 20s. But I do remind myself of how close we became as I got older. I know that the distance is necessary as she figures out who she is and where she’s going.
When my husband and I have discussed different career opportunities that might be out there, we always include some conversation about how the girls would handle it if we moved out of state. Generally, we decide they still need us close by. Their dad lives here, but they just don’t turn to him like they do us when they are hurting or need support.
Last week, though, when my younger daughter’s cat was injured in a battle with a nail under her couch, she didn’t call me in hysterics – she called her older sister. It was a bit of a revelation, seeing that they are realizing they have each other to lean on. And that, despite their struggles (the usual sister stuff), they are going to grow into a better relationship with each other as they get older. There was a sense of freedom in that recognition.
My son is only 12, but he made a breakthrough of his own this week. As he waited in the dining room of his piano teacher’s home for his turn in the recital, he texted me “I can’t do it.” He has some social anxiety, and had refused to play a couple of years ago at another recital, so I just assured him that he was ready, and hoped for the best.
When it was his turn, he couldn’t make eye contact with me to refuse to perform because we were sitting out of his line of sight, but I saw his teacher give him the “what are you waiting for?” look. After a short pause, he came out and took his seat at the piano. I could see his fingers shaking, but he played his two pieces as well as he had in practice, and it was done! It was such a HUGE moment for him, whether or not he realized it. He was nervous, he acknowledged his fear, his parents stated that they heard and understood his concerns, but then HE PLAYED ANYWAY.
Today, as I’m missing my mother on Mother’s Day, I am feeling some sense of understanding of the journey she was on as she watched four very different children head off on their own. Some of us called her regularly, others didn’t. Some had kids and needed advice, some didn’t have kids, and some (me) eventually reminded her she was the grandmother, not the mother.
I don’t remember a lot of specific conversations with my mom, but I remember how she made me feel, and I am able to look at how I managed to navigate some of the more challenging situations in my life and point back to her as one of the main reasons I was confident and capable enough to come out on the other side in a good place. I hope that I am making that happen for my own kids. I think I am.
Miss you mom. Thanks for your example. The kids are alright.