Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gah! I am my Mother!

I don't think anyone realizes it's happening, it isn't something we do by choice or out of desire, it's just yet another part of the parcel. I've concluded that while it comes on gradually, the realization of this change causes you to feel slightly breathless and overwhelmed. Then, once you've regained consciousness, you are left with this mix of emotions: sadness, shame, frustration, confusion and even a little bit of happiness linger as you carry on with your day.

Now, if you didn't read the title of this here post, I'm sure you are now completely and utterly confused. If you did read it, however, you're probably doing one of two things, you're either smiling and nodding with understanding, or you're flat out splitting a gut laughing because you've been caught and the reality of it is kinda funny. Heck, maybe you're even doing both.

With all the things that came with becoming a mother, I had no idea, being my mother was one of them. Now, don't get me wrong, I have a fantastic mom. She's loved and nurtured, cared for and disciplined me for the best and worst parts of 26 years. She's put up with and enjoyed me (or so I tell myself) and she's done her best to allow me to be me in each stage of my life. But there are somethings, especially from the eras in which discipline needed to be given with a little more regularity and force than it does now, that I swore I'd never do.

While she's a great Mom, there are things she did that as I grew up I said I wouldn't do to my children. Many of those proclamations came after a large plate of "Say, Yes Mom!" was served up with a glass of "Don't say I'll do it later, because you won't, DO IT NOW!" and I was over full and spewed forth "I'll NEVER make my children say, "Yes Mom". It's ridiculous and unnecessary and insulting".

Ahem, may I take that back?

Like many women, when I thought of being a mother, I thought of the many things I'd love to do with my children that my mom did with or for us. There are wonderful memories surrounding shopping adventures, family holidays, greek salad movie nights and hanging out on her bed watching her get ready for a date night with my dad. Those are things I hope to share with Bethany and Audrey, giving them those memories and so many more as they grow up. I thought about how there are ways they disciplined us that worked wonders, conversations that we had that left an impact and decisions they made as parents that have shaped me into who I am, that again I'd like to emulate. It's natural, when heading into uncharted waters to use the GPS you have and as parents, our best guide is written by those who went before us. Let's call them our Elders (because just writing it makes me giggle, she'll always be older, HA!) and I'm only slightly kidding.

But like many mothers I also looked at the things that didn't work (or so I thought, before I had kids). Things that I didn't like, that angered me, the stuff that ultimately irked me. Some of it, I haven't repeated, not because they were wrong but because those choices are wrong for my personality to enforce and wouldn't be effective for the little people that I am raising. But there are others, like "Say Yes Mom" that I have used, in spite of all my good intentions. I now realize that after asking my girls to do something, or after having reprimanding them, having them answer me with "Yes Mom" is a sign of respect and that they have understood what they're told. I also make them repeat said instruction (eg. "What did Mommy say?" "Don't hit" "Why did I say that?" "Because you said I can't, even if I want to" - Good enough)because again, it makes sure these little girls who are much smarter than I thought 1 and 3 year olds could be, understand what I mean.

I always thought my parents punished us with a little bit of joy. I knew that they'd rather we were perfect all of the time, but I always thought that in those moments that we weren't good and needed a consequence, that they took some pleasure in giving it. I've learned, the hard way, that's not true. The "it hurts me more than you " phrase it so true. I didn't expect punishing Bethany and Audrey to leave me physically exhausted and weak. Ready to burst into tears because I'm afraid I'm a "bad Mom". I know I'm not, they're good kids, they're loved and cherished and while tempers can run rampant (you wait until I share AJ's temper moments, they make B look like the Dalia Lama. Ok, so not quite, but close.) some days, I have nothing major to complain about. But that doesn't mean that I like being the meanie, it doesn't mean that I love saying "No" 450 times an hour or, that I've come to like the realization that there are times that I am my Mother.

There's been a lot of brain power delegated to the thinking of this such matter, in my over cluttered head these past few weeks and I've come to a conclusion. See, I wondered why I was so concerned with being my Mother, why repeating my "I'll never" moments, leaves me feeling raw, I mean really, what's the big deal?

The thing is, it's in those moments when I'm faced with a child who's unbelievably frustrating, throwing a monster tantrum over something as silly as getting the wrong colored cup (it's serious business ya'll) that I realize, why she did it. She did it because she loves me, because she was at her wits end and she, like the rest of us, ultimately wanted to see me become a good person. And it's in those moments, or maybe the ones that follow, that I'm filled with guilt and shame.

I mocked her for those things, I turned my nose up at her, I scoffed and I put the blame on her. I never took a look at my role in the acquisition of the punishment, I never looked at the whole picture of how hard her day was or at how stupid I was being (16, period, attitude, UGLY), I was wrong. I hurt her with words or looks of disapproval and disgust. We carried on, but some 10 years later, the dust has cleared and my rose colored glasses have turned from muddy brown to clear and I can see the heart behind the choice.

We've talked it over, I've apologized, we've laughed, I've cried, she's smiled and nodded. She was there once, she was in my shoes, looking at a very large plate of humble pie, facing the woman who'd raised her with the same love and respect and feeling the same shame. And ya know, she was given the same gift I was, the gift that I'll one day pass onto my girls, one that if you're as lucky as I was, you'll get one day too. A hug and a smile, and she'll say, "It's ok honey. I love you and I told you so"


Anonymous said...

I love you Ashley..so much
Love Mom

Mommy Trouble said...

I haven't yet experienced the baby phase, but at 23 was thrown into the preteen and elementary school age from my husbands past marriage, and I see my self experiencing the same things. I find myself setting rules that I thought once were absolutely ridiculous. 1 Soda a day and video game time is earned by reading or doing workbooks. Its funny how the things you despised way back when have become saving graces today.

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