You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
So to go back to my earlier post about Labor Day here in the USA feeling like the end of summer – luckily the sun came out, I had a jaunt to the local swimming pool before it closed for the season, and it felt like a proper end to summer (even though the end of summer isn’t technically until later). The weather has actually gotten a little cooler, feeling more like fall. But I hope & presume this won’t last.
I continue to struggle to get back on track and put things in context. I think I continue to be thrown by feeling “shot down” last week – I suspect that my mentor did not mean to come across that way, but I definitely received it that way. And for a number of reasons, including the power differential and my ongoing dependence on their good will, as well as my being a stranger in a strange land, there is no way to confront or discuss this. I think there were days when my mother was grumpy or preoccupied that probably stemmed from similar things. As a child you don’t think about your parent as having things going on like that – being a child is so egocentric!
Of course teachers also don’t think about it, and that is NOT because they are ego-centric (at least not most of the time). For instance, children come in to class having dealt with all sorts of things the night & morning before, but teachers expect that they are blank “slates” (or computer pages), open for whatever input the teacher has planned for the day. Many teachers don’t think: maybe the child had a fight with a sibling, or their mother screamed at them all morning, or they had no breakfast, or they were up all night listening to their parents fighting/having sex/watching telly, or the cat peed on their clothes, or no one has done laundry in their house for weeks… the assumption is that the child had a good night’s sleep, got up and ate breakfast and got dressed and came to school…without baggage.
But we all have baggage.
For some reason, Labor Day always feels like the last day of summer to me. And today it is gray and overcast here, which makes it feel more like mourning than celebration. I love it when Labor Day is sunny and warm and hanging out at the pool on the day it closes feels like a necessity. Then it feels like a celebration of the best of summer and a good transition to the joys of fall. Today the weather reflects my internal state – reinforcing my melancholy rather than challenging me to move forward from it.
So since the pouring rain incident my child has carried an umbrella whenever there is a chance of rain.
An argument for the value of NOT being a helicopter parent.
I am really struggling at the moment to find the determination to move forward after getting shot down by someone I saw as a mentor. I think I saw in them what I wanted to see. I don’t know that I see them clearly even now.
But I think about my mother and her decisions to pursue an education and a series of jobs at a time when women just didn’t do that. And I wonder how she found that determination. I am sure she was shot down at points too – that would have been inevitable. I wish I could ask her, how she coped and responded to others when they questioned why she wasn’t married, or wanted to work. Did she just ignore them? Did she just have faith that every thing would work out? Did she pray? Did she not even hear their words?
I think that there was a part of her that was like the character “Pollyanna” – where she was determinedly optimistic and almost would not hear naysayers. I wish I had more of the quality. I guess I can try harder to cultivate it.
Yes, the rain always stops.
My mother owned numerous raincoats – different styles (mostly trench coats) and shades of tan/brown – all fabric, not plastic. I remember going through her belongings when she moved to the nursing home and being struck by the number of raincoats that she had. When I was a little child she would also wear one of those rain scarfs that seem so dated now – does anyone, even very old women, wear them any more? I think that her raincoat collection said something about how she approached life – the need to be prepared; the need to be presentable, but not stand out; to have nice new things sometimes, but not throw out something that was still usable…
So my child came home wet. But he will remember the umbrella next time.
So it is absolutely POURING rain – a drenching, soak-you-to-the-skin-in-seconds, kind of rain. And my child, being a teenager, did not take an umbrella when they when out (because it wasn’t raining then). I am typing this to keep myself from texting them and asking if they want me to pick them up. I know that they need to learn to think and be prepared, and if I go out and pick them up, some of the consequences will not happen and they will be less likely to put the pieces together, and more likely to make the same mistake in the future…but it is hard.
When I was a child, my mother worked, and her job had no flexibility. If it was pouring rain I either had a raincoat or umbrella or I got soaked. While I have worked throughout my children’s lives, my jobs have had some flexibility, and I have had more resources, so they have not learned the same lessons. But as I get closer to “launching” my oldest, I think that there are some things they will still need to figure out after they are technically “launched.” Obviously getting soaked is miserable, but not deadly, and it’s good to think about what it means to “be prepared” as you start each day or adventure or event.
The reality is that every generation’s experiences are so different, and the skill sets to be a successful adult have different nuances, and what it means to be a good parent is also different.
And eventually the rain will stop.
Lately I have been struggling a lot with my parenting – wanting to protect my children from hurt and disappointment, wanting to make opportunities open up for them – and while I know:
1) These are normal desires for parents,
2) It is important for children to feel hurt, disappointment, frustration, etc, because this is what helps them learn the skills for life and makes them better people,
I still find myself wondering how my mother managed it. She seemed to take for granted that I would figure things out for myself, and that it was not her role in life to solve my problems. It wasn’t like she was cruel or hard-hearted, just practical.
I am not sure if the difference is generational or temperamental. In other words, did her generation believe child-raising should be more laissez-faire than my generation? Infant/child mortality was higher when she was a child, and people often didn’t expect that all their children would grow to adulthood and often had many children so that there would be enough help around the farm/house (as well as because there was less availability of birth control); children were expected to start working earlier in life and fewer children would go on to higher education; parents were busy with a great deal of physical labor (no labor saving devices), leaving children to care for themselves and each other; it was a very different world from the one I grew up in and these realities would have all shaped parenting behaviors.
Or was it about temperament, her personal temperament, which was kind but quiet? She chose to have children when she was older and had an established career – in a time when few women did that. Because of her outside interests and activities, she may have had less energy to invest in micro-managing her children’s lives, and less support in the workplace to do that (other working women were mostly single or childless or felt they could not talk about being a parent because this was a man’s world where men did not talk about their children and homes) (there certainly was no flexibility in work hours to attend school functions!).
It would be interesting to really have her perspective on this, as I struggle to make sure I don’t act like a helicopter parent!!
So one of my mother’s signature dishes was a cheesecake – not the New York style that I make, but more like a cheese pie using a homemade graham-cracker crust and a lemon gelatin-cream cheese filling. It was no-bake. My father loved it. As a child I loved it. It was a great treat in our house, and even if it was “no-bake” it was made from scratch. I haven’t thought of it in years, and while I helped make it as a child, as an adult I never made it. I learned how to make a New York style cheesecake – baked in the oven and decadently rich and creamy. I became a snob about cheesecake. But today at the coffee shop they had these miniature no-bake cheesecakes, so I bought one in honor of my mother. I haven’t eaten it, just stuck a candle in and thought about her.
So today is my mother’s birthday. It is the first birthday since she died 7 months ago. It feels strange not to be able to celebrate with her and I realize how much I miss her. Not that we were people who lived in each others’ pockets – but she was an important part of my life and while she is still important, there isn’t a physical presence in the same way.
I have these conversations in my head with her, so I thought, why not write them down? That’s the diarist & writer in me. But I think about things and think: she’d like that, or I wonder what she would think (and make up an appropriate response). So here’s to you Mom.