by Tracee Sioux
Last year when my mother came to visit my then four-year-old daughter was being down right rude to her.
During a moment alone I confronted Ainsley, You are being rude to Grandma.
What’s got into you? You are not allowed to treat anyone that way.Well, YOU do! she shot back.There was so much truth in that statement I couldn’t even pretend to deny it. It was a sure case of “do as I say and not as I do” parenting.
This time when Grandma visited I resolved to mind my manners and be a good example of compassion and kindness and love and peace with my mother. God knows I don’t want Ainsley being rude to me when she grows up and has children.
I LOVE my mother. She’s an extremely generous and loving woman. She invests herself fully. She gives her time, energy, money and devotion to those she loves and even to those she doesn’t. She’s funny. She’s open to new ideas. She’s beautiful. She’s a stellar home maker. She’s smart.She taught me so much about keeping house that my friends have me mend their favorite T-shirts because my mother took the time to teach me to use a needle and thread. She taught me to be crafty. She taught me to be frugal and stretch a dollar. Everything I know about how to clean and cook and be a mother – I learned from her. My dad was military so really, everything I know about the world I learned from my mother.
How grateful I am for my mother. Her generosity in sharing her knowledge knows no limits.
Yet, I find it nearly impossible to be my adult self around her. I forever feel 14-years-old in her presence and I HATED being 14. There’s really so little power in it.
Mom – Posture, it’s all about posture.
Me – I’m walking just fine mom, there is nothing wrong with my posture.
Mom – Don’t feed the baby hot dogs, it’s so dangerous.
Me- Yeah I cut it into tiny pieces.
Mom – Well, now he wants the hot dog, you can’t tease him like that.
Mom – Just let her wear what she wants, there are bigger battles to fight.
Mom- She’s not going into public with me looking like that.
Mom- Now, I don’t want her scribbling all over this expensive art paper and making it all blah. I spent a lot of money on that and I don’t want her wasting it.
Me- She’s five, Mom. Free painting isn’t a waste, it’s how they learn. Art is supposed to be fun.
Mom – Well, I don’t want her free painting on this, promise you won’t let her just destroy this stuff.
Mom- I heard about this woman who had a separate room in her house that she kept locked. That’s where she kept the toys. And once a day the kids were allowed to go in and pick two toys a month. It kept the house clean.
Me – Well, I don’t want to be crazy psycho mom who locks the toys away. The kids will just pick up the toys. We just have a very small house and it’s hard to keep up with it.
Mom- Yeah, they’ll pick them up if you MAKE them.
Me – Well, I’ll just make them. I don’t want to be “control freak mom.” I want to be “childhood should be fun mom.” I’d rather have a cluttered house.
With each passing day I become more and more defensive, and yes, rude. Trying to keep a boundary between who I AM and who she wants me to be.
Recently, Ainsley was going through a period of missing me. She’d miss me at school. She’d miss me at her Nana’s house or even just going to bed alone. I thought back to all the years that I’ve been struggling to quiet my own mother’s voice inside my head and realized that at her age the constant voice might actually comfort her.
Ainsley, close your eyes and think about what you do when you get ready to go to school, I told her one night when she had been complaining of missing me. What do you have to do to get ready?
Brush my hair. Get dressed. Brush my teeth.
Whose voice do you hear in your head telling you what you have to do to get ready to go somewhere?
What does it sound like?
Brush your hair, put shorts on under that skirt, brush your teeth. Come on let’s go. She said in a sing-song nag. In exactly the same tone I hear in my head when I hear my mother telling me to go put on a bra or that I shouldn’t wear those shoes to walk in or my hair needs to be fixed.
That’s right Ainsley, I told her. For the rest of your life, it’s my voice that will be in your head telling you what to do. Now, you don’t have to miss me when you’re in school laying down for nap-time. You can just close your eyes and hear my voice in your head telling you to brush your hair or change your dirty shirt. I’m in your head and in your heart always. You will always have me with you where ever you go, even when you grow up and have kids of your own.
It’s not such a bad thing to have your mother’s voice in your head. Quite a lot of the time she’s telling you great things that will help you along the wa. For instance, when I see the poor woman at school with a hump and sit up straighter, Posture, posture, it’s all about posture.
The job of adolescence and early adulthood is to filter what that voice says. You choose to keep the good things and block out the bad things. As you get better and better at the filtering and editing of your mother’s voice you learn to appreciate the mother you were blessed with. And hopefully you become a better mother yourself along the way.
Update on March 31, 2007
When my daughter was getting ready to go away overnight she came to me with a heart-shaped bracelet and said,
Mommy, I am giving this to you so you will not miss me. Don’t be sad. You can always hear my voice in your head. I am always in your heart so you can look at this and know that I am always with you.
I call that effective. Sure enough, while she is gone I can certainly close my eyes and hear her sweet voice telling me that she loves me and that I’m the best mommy ever!