Sibling rivalry. That age old battle of who mom loves most and which child will survive. Seriously, I fought with my older sister until I was about 16. I would go so far as to say that she was my mortal enemy. Until we had a common enemy: our mother.
Puberty united us. Mom was terrible. She gave us a curfew. She would not let us run all over with our friends. She expected us to get along. What a terrible person. My sister and I realized that we were expending our energy by fighting with each other when we could combine forces against our Mom.
This did not last long. Mom was smarter and could see through our truce. She would stick both of us in a room together as punishment when we fought and that is a brilliant maneuver. The strongest wins right? No, it forced us to have to communicate to be allowed to leave that room. My mom was kind of a visionary and I use this tactic often with my own children.
Now my older sister is one of my best friends. We can look back and laugh at all the horrible things that we did to another. With my mom gone, it is now even more important that I recognize her parenting and the influence that it has had on me.
Influence #1: When my kids are mad at me, I must be doing something right. I follow this rule to the T. My job as a parent is not to be a friend but to make rules and boundaries for my kids. If you don’t like the rules, wait until you move out and then you can do whatever you want. This has worked pretty well for me as my adult children still talk to me and like to come home for visits. I was not so terrible after all, huh #1 and #2?
Influence #2: Not taking things personally. Kids can say very mean and hurtful things. Don’t take it personally. I do not know how many times my kids have told me that they don’t like me and occasionally have even uttered the hate word. You know what, it’s okay to not like me. I don’t like them all the time. But I love them and I know they love me. Also, when #5 was a toddler he told me he liked to lay on me because I was “fluffy like a pillow.” That hurt.
Influence #3: It’s okay to be mad at your kid. Similar to influence #1. Your child is not always perfect and sometimes they do some stupid shit. You can be mad at your kid. You can be furiously disappointed in their actions. You still love them and as long as they know that you love them, it’s alright to not want to be in the same room with them until your anger passes. Not like till their 18th birthday kind of abandonment, but even an hour of “Mommy doesn’t want to look at you right now” is not going to hurt them or you.
Influence #4: There is nothing you are thinking of that I didn’t already do. This was a tough one. My mom wasn’t sheltered but she was married at 16. What did she know of true love or not getting to go on vacation with your best friend’s family? Turns out, she knew a lot. She was a child of the 60’s. It was hard to pull the wool over my mom’s eyes and it’s hard to pull the wool over my eyes. I was not a good child so there are really very little things that my kids could think of that I actually haven’t done. And I see everything!
Influence #5: Listening without judging. I could tell my mom anything and never worry that she would hold it against me. I try to do this with my children. I may not like what they have to say, but I will give them the best advice I can and help them through it. When I was a 17 year old senior in high school and had to tell my parents I was pregnant, I felt like throwing up. Turns out this was mostly pregnancy talking but still. My mom did not throw me out on the streets and she did not disown me. She made me an appointment with her doctor and supported me. She was not happy, she let me know that she was disappointed, but she still went with me to almost every appointment and she supported me without enabling me.
Influence #6: Realistic expectations. I am very much grounded. Not like I have to stay in my room for a week (which would be heavenly) but in the way that I am not a stick my head in the clouds type of person. I shared this trait with my mom. When your kids is 5 and wants to be an astronaut, cool. You don’t have to give them the breakdown of how the space program is bankrupt and nonexistent any more. You say, “Fly to the moon!” When your kid is 16 and failing English and wants to be a playwright, not so much. I have a bad habit of over planning and wanting to make my kid’s birthday party’s extravaganzas on a Dollar Tree budget. I have to be able to put the brakes on and realize that I cannot recreate Hogwarts and have real owls for #6’s birthday. But I can make a mean sorting hat and print out lots of Harry Potter crap. This is a realistic expectation. My house being chosen for Better Homes & Gardens? Not on my best day. My house being picked up and feet not sticking to carpet? That I can do.
Thanks mom for teaching me these important points. Thanks for encouraging me but also being honest about some of my crazier ideas. Thanks for being my mom. Wish you were here to laugh at my latest attempts but at least I know you’re looking down on us and laughing your ass off.