Why My Mom is the Best
My mom is complicated, so this isn’t going to be a fuzzy story of impeccable maternal nurturing. She was never really a nurturer. Nor was her mother. When I was younger, she was there – a constant, consistent, reliable presence. She was far more likely to discipline than outwardly encourage, but she was adventurous in the small ways that a housewife of the late 60’s through the mid-80’s could be – through her own creative expressions in the kitchen; at an easel; at her sewing machine. I absorbed that.
As I reached my late teens, our relationship could be fraught at times, not atypical between adolescent girls testing boundaries and mothers who often long ago gave up testing their own. She was strong, and despite what I now recognize as her own insecurities, she was independent in a way that seemed different to me than what I observed with other mothers. I began seeing her as a person, even if often, a person who was subjecting me to too many rules and impossible cleaning standards.
My mom (like my dad) was an only child. Neither could have children, so they knew early-on that they would adopt. At first, they thought four. After me, and then my sister, two seemed a better number. We knew we were loved and wanted. My favorite book as a child was the story she read us, probably at least weekly, of our adoption.
I was a handful – I can clearly remember my 3-year-old wanderlust (gratefully neighbors would see me and shepherd me back home when I decided to strike out on an adventure as mom ran next door for *2 minutes* to borrow something from Mrs. Grinewski). She couldn’t turn her back on me for 10 seconds before I’d be climbing furniture or the clothesline or creating oatmeal artwork on the back storm-door. As I grew, she related these stories of me, laughing as she told them, in ways that made me proud of who I was.
Years later, after I’d split up with my fiancé, mom shared that while she liked him, she never felt he was really right for me. She was glad to see me move on. She didn’t belabor it or expand with any deeper critique of him. I wondered why she’d never said anything. She told me it was important to her that I made my own mistakes.
It was many years later, as I took a mini-vacation for several days with a friend who was visiting her family in the wealthy beach community in which she’d been raised, that I witnessed a form of helicopter parenting I’d never experienced in my life, but which my poor friend, it seemed, had endured not only as a child, but continued to suffer as an adult. Her mother criticized her – a woman in her early 30’s, mind you – about an old friend my friend planned to see on her visit. She was openly disdainful and judgmental of this friend, who was clearly someone my friend cared about. I saw my friend, otherwise a smart, outgoing, funny woman, shrink a little. It was awful to watch.
Like a ton of bricks it struck me how lucky I was – I knew about how mom had felt about my fiancé, but she’d been successful in keeping god-knew-how-many other judgments to herself. I vowed to do the same when I had a family of my own, and now that my sons are in their late teens and 20’s, I know how very difficult that is. I’m still striving to emulate her.