Of all the titles I have in this life the one that gives me the most joy, the most bewilderment and definitely the most consternation is my “mom” role. I blithely dance through life while wearing my other monikers; engineer, sister, friend, wife, and cousin. I mean there are bumps in every road, but in a macro sense I do not find myself shouldering the burden of every decision I make, as much as I do in my parenting role. Questioning not only my choices but my wisdom in making those choices. And by wisdom I mean, do I even have all the necessary marbles in my brain to make this decision? I am not talking about a narcissistic preoccupation centered on how I will look based on this decision, I am talking about a real sense of what the hell am I doing? I mean seriously IS there an app for this?
I love math, so what, you’re probably saying, well bear with me I’ll explain. I view life through a math-tinted lens, when I think about the advice, guidance, criticism, praise and support I give my children I see it this way. My kids are on their own unique journey with or without me it is their and only theirs, I do not posses it, and I believe I do not have a right to claim it as my own. However, like a vector in math I know the slightest, even most minute, change in angle on a vector will have greater and greater effects as the magnitude or length of the vector grows. So the little things that I do with my children, say to my children, advise my children about, acts as an external variable on their path. I believe, please hang with me math-haters, those external variables create slight adjustments in the angle of trajectory and grow in significance the further away we travel from the point of origin. So it sometimes overwhelms me, even with the so-called little things I do or avoid doing as a parent.
I put myself on heightened alert when I tread near my “regret bone yard” with my kids. People who have no regrets fascinate me I wish I could say I have no regrets, but I do, starting with I regret that I regret! I regret how I treated some people growing up, I regret that I did not stick with my chemistry major in my first attempt at college, I regret that I treated my mother poorly at times, I regret that I was not with my grandma and my dad when they took their last breath. Each regret has its own unique circumstances so when advising my children in any areas that overlaps a regret in my bone yard, I ask myself are you advising young Marsia, or are you advising your kids? I could lie and say I always answer my kids but I don’t, sometime I forget to ask the question or I ask and convince myself I am only thinking of the kids, this is where my parenting gets messy.
We all do it even those amazing put together parenting authors and shows, they have their messy moments. My messy parent internal alarm goes off when I start to feel that gnawing uncomfortable feeling. I believe our greatest lessons are in those awkward, uncomfortable circumstances and times in our life. So when I witness myself or another parent pushing kids in a direction the child doesn’t seem to have a passion for, I get that wobbly feeling.
Case in point, my daughter asked to take guitar lessons I was overjoyed! Oh boy one skeleton in my bone yard is the “I wish I would have played a musical instrument regret.” So here is one of those parenting mine fields for me, I start to watch every step so this whole thing does not blow up. I keep checking to make sure my intent is pure, my advise authentic. Am I pushing her to practice because she needs to learn commitment, to learn patience and realize the accomplishment for that patience and hard work, and not pushing her to clean up my bone yard? It really is a fine line we parents walk, if I am having my children make up for my regrets or if my passion becomes theirs, is their trajectory diverted so off path that their true purpose becomes more difficult to achieve or even see? And what about experience? Are we supposed to ignore our experience, no, but we can’t be consumed by it either. Sheesh, it’s complicated.
And what about failure? I have learned so much from my missteps, can I let my children fail? My mom and dad allowed me and my brother to fail, I can’t imagine what it took for them to stand by knowing full well we would fall flat on our face. I have seen children who are not allowed to fail, their parents make sure of it, I feel such compassion for those parents, but also great sorrow for those children. This has been difficult for me, to let my kids go into situations where I was not sure whether or not they would fail. I still struggle with it every single time. It drives me to distraction when my kids fail an assignment or test, however, my work as a parent is lessened with each failure I allow them to experience because that is where the really learning takes place. I still despise it.
So whether or not I know what the hell I am doing, and I am certain I do not, this is what I do, right or wrong, my parenting litmus test is the way people feel when they are with my kids, if they recall feeling hopeful, happy, or good, I must be doing ok as a parent. It’s the same test I use on myself as a human being.
It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself. ~Joyce Maynard
You know that God has a sense of humor, why else would I be going through menopause and raising a teenage daughter at the same time. I can tell you I have been through a lot in my life but try experiencing a hot flash at 7 am while making breakfast and listening to your 13-year-old daughter start to cry because I had the audacity to encourage her to eat her food. “I’m not hungry!” she screams, “I know baby but you told me last night when you got home you are not getting enough food at lunch, your still hungry, it’s because you’re not getting enough to eat in the morning.”
Her lip starts to quiver and a look comes over her face that is a combination of pure hostility and despondency. As sweat starts beading on my forehead and the core of my body feels like a coal-fired furnace has just been stoked to its capacity. “You don’t understand!” she half cries and half rages at me. Of course I don’t, I do happen to be a woman who at one time was a teenager too, I have all the same parts or at least most of them, but of course I don’t. My mind is racing because I am trying to keep from grabbing the ice maker and pouring it in my pajamas while also staying engaged in this chaotic scene. “You see, you are never listening to me!” She’s right I find myself floating off to avoid the barrage of complaints and list of injustices she is subjected to in our home. In addition menopause, pre or post or wherever I am on this magical ride, assaults me with attention grabbers, like hot flashes, dizziness, and sudden fatigue.
I really do love my daughter she is beautiful, intelligent, creative and really compassionate, the latter mainly reserved for everyone else but me. I on the other hand get both barrels of her teenage angst blasted at me pretty much on a daily basis. When my husband waltzes in the room he gets the batting of the eyes and a delicate “hi daddy.” We have even resorted to having my husband ask her to do things because if daddy asks her she pops right up and runs over to do whatever he asks, at least most of the time. When I ask I get what can only be described as indignant condemnation followed by a litany of the outrageous unfairness she is subjected to which in turn justifies her uncivil disobedience. Which all pairs very well with my menopausal induced mood swings and anxiety.
I recently went to my doctor and complained I have intermittent spells of dizziness and fatigue. He ordered a bunch of tests and basically said yep your now post menopausal. Now to me that should mean I am over it, no that is the cruel joke of medical nomenclature when it comes to menopause. Pre-menopausal means your ramping up you may have some symptoms but they are few and far between, and before you know it you are post menopausal I not sure when I was actually at menopause because I have been told I was “pre” up until I was told I was “post” and that’s when the real fun started for me. Of the 37 common symptoms they have listed online for menopause I am experiencing 39. The additional symptoms, based on my own non-scientific poll of fellow female sufferers, which should also be listed as common, are low self-esteem and frustration.
Well the low self-esteem and frustration could be from raising a teenager or could just be aggravated by raising a teenager. I will do another non-scientific poll over a few bottles of wine with my test group and report back later. Just so you understand the depth of my suffering I will share my most recent menopause/teenage experience. I was thrilled to be giving a young engineer in my community a well deserved award at a recent dinner. As I prepared the words I would share about the honoree days ahead of time I could not help but hear my daughters constant criticism about my failing memory. So I typed everything out in large bold font so I would not have to rely on my memory at all. As I approached the podium I was hit with a hot flash, great I hope my face does not turn beet red, I just told myself, buck up you will, with all dignity in tact, gulp your ice water when you get back to the table and be good as new. I shared with the audience that I had to prepare a written copy of what I would be saying that evening ahead of time. I did that because I have always been an off the cuff kind of speaker, and this was a real departure from my usual style. I added that my teenage daughter’s constant taunting of me stating things like, I have the memory of a squirrel,
was the deciding factor. I then added that raising a teenager is stressful, which received a room full of affirming laughter.
The next day I shared with my daughter that I mentioned her the evening before in my presentation. I told her that I announced to the group that she likes to razz me saying I have the memory of a squirrel. Without any hesitation she goes off on a castigation that began with “oh my God, see you just proved my point!” I am staring back at her wondering how this bonding moment has once again turned on me and resulted in a belittlement of my mental ability. She then continued “I said you have the memory of a goldfish and the bladder of a squirrel, oh my God this is so perfect.”
My mom used to respond to me during my teenage rants that she hoped I had a child who acted just like me some day. Well, mom you definitely got your wish. I have decided not to plague my daughter with the same curse, I mean someone has got to stop this cycle of menopausal mother abuse.
Happy mother’s day mom. Thank you for bringing me into this world. Thank you for my self-esteem, you always believed in me, thank you for my creativity, not only did we live outside the box, I did not know a box existed. Thank you for your unconditional love, I have grown into a loving person.
Mom I had no idea how many years we would have together, but I truly thought we would have more. I was in the infancy of my own motherhood when you died. It’s been a challenge since you left, I had so much more to learn especially about raising my own kids. I have managed to create a great circle of amazing women since you left, they help fill in the gaps but none will ever replace you.
I remember one of the last times we spoke on the phone you told me you were worried that my youngest would not know you because we lived so far away and you had only seen him a couple of times, I dismissed your concern, of course he would know you. Then you died shortly after that, he was only 3. Both my kids have no real memory of you, only pictures and stories I share. It breaks my heart when I struggle to keep your memory alive with them knowing this is how they will remember you. I also look back at that conversation and somehow you knew didn’t you mom, you knew at some level your time with us was short. I did not see it, maybe I didn’t want to.
Every time I hear that someone has lost their own mother it re-opens the wound of losing you. I know we had a loving, complicated and sometimes messy relationship, many mothers and daughters do, but I love you mom I always have and always will.
I just wanted you to know how blessed I am that you were my mom. We had a crazy, fun, and wild ride while it lasted. I did not fully appreciate you then but every day I wake up and face my own motherhood experiences I think about you, smile and thank God for you. While my own children may not have a memory of you they are a reflection of you and through them you live on.
I have to say there are women who have given birth yet I hesitate to call them mothers, there are women who have never given birth who are magnificent mothers and there are men who mother. I salute all the great momma’s out there in all shapes, sizes and forms. I also honor the dear ones out there who are carrying on without their momma, some have lost their mom’s to death and some never had a mom or lost their living mom along the way. Please know I am thinking of you on this day.
“Giving birth does not make you a momma, it is the actions you take and the unconditional love you give that earns you the title mother.” Marsia Geldert-Murphey