One of the things I enjoy most about being a mother is sharing that experience with my own mother. A child grows up and separates from his or her family of origin. We leave our mothers. But becoming a parent – a mother, in my case – brings us back home. For some, this return may not be geographical. But becoming a parent reminds us of our own parents – for better or worse. Do you parent the way your mother did or do you choose another course? In any event, there is a relationship between how you conduct yourself as a mother and the mother who raised you.
After my sister gave birth to her first child, I remember my mother saying, “I love my grandchildren, but I love – just as much – seeing my daughters become mothers.” So, maybe the enjoyment of this shared experience is mutual. At each step on the journey, I understand her better, I think, even when I question my methods or my sanity!
I am road weary right now. My teenage children do not always like me. Not only do they reject what I ask of them – as they began doing when they were toddlers. They now often reject me. I’m too old to understand. I’m not attractive enough. I don’t get it – whatever IT is. Skye was clever enough the other day to tell me: “I don’t love you and I have never loved you.” I said, “Not so. I have the love notes you wrote to me when you were younger to prove you wrong.” Skye’s response? – “I was just a stupid kid then. I know better now.”
Oh, but my mother understands. The conflicts may be over different issues, using different technologies, with different personalities involved, but we share the same basic drama: parents and kids butt heads because we see the “same” things through our own generation’s lenses. And my mother and I also share this: Our children’s well-being is inextricably bound up in our own sense of well-being. We worry. We rejoice. We take two steps forward and one – or more! – steps back.
One of the great things about my mother is how supportive she is even when the parenting issues are ones she never faced with her children. The most recent example of this is Becton’s insistence about dressing as a female for many of his dance performances at home. Not only has my mother been nonjudgmental, for Becton’s birthday this year, she offered to sew a costume for him. Becton was ecstatic! He drew a picture of his ideal dress, and then Mom and Becton went to the fabric store to pour over patterns and materials. Mom was impressed with Becton’s definitiveness about the style of dress and the various shiny fabrics he wanted. Becton doesn’t have much patience. So, Mom then had to contend with daily phone calls from Becton regarding her progress on the project. She was kind, but clear about her time constraints and when he could expect to see results. I was privileged to be Becton’s driver to his fittings at the Patton house. I enjoyed watching the interactions between these two very different people. You may immediately think of their physical differences – my 75-year-old white mother and my 7-year-old black son. But there are other differences including their interests, temperaments, energy levels and so forth. And, yet, they are bound by love. It was so clear to see when I was with them. There is a level of respect, acceptance, and tolerance that overcomes all the apparent differences between them.
The respect, acceptance, and tolerance is less clear in the Falco home. Without going into much detail, I will simply say that Becton’s siblings don’t like to see Becton dressed in girl clothes. At times, they are downright nasty to him. They can be creatures of the prejudices of their culture. I’ve lectured plenty. But, sometimes, just to keep the peace, I find myself escorting Becton to a distant part of the house where he can “be himself.” I don’t like it. This cannot be the final answer. Yet, I know Becton will contend with this type of response in places outside our home if he continues to pursue this interest over time. He will learn to steel himself against the abuse and will find internal and external places of nurture and support.
This brings me back to Mom. Right now, it means so much to me that she takes Becton as he is. Unlike me, she doesn’t appear to be worrying about his future. She doesn’t make excuses for him. She meets him where he is – right now – today. I tear-up as I think about this. It’s what each of us needs and deserves – a safe place to be, a place where we have the freedom to formulate our next move, a place where we can listen to that internal voice, away from the pressure to conform to something to that is NOT who we are. I love my mother for giving this to my son.