Tales From the Trenches of Parenting
I was going to be the “Cool Mom”. That was the plan. The “Fun Mom”. The “Let’s Play Hooky and Eat Ice Cream For Dinner Mom.”
The cruel reality of my dashed intention came crashing down like department store stock during the pandemic when against my will, the dreaded words feared by parents and children alike blurted from my mouth, “Because I said so!” There. I said it.
When I was a kid I swore I would never be this autocratic. I would listen to my children’s point of view. I would be the parent who remembered what it was like to want more freedom, to be left alone, or to be included on my own terms and to really know what was best.
But, invariably at some point during the last thirty-plus years, I became my mother. “It happens to the best of us.” I would sympathetically tell a friend who was facing the same, existential crisis. But why? Why does it happen at all?
It got me thinking that there are actually two separate realities; the one in my head that is organized and meal plans and doesn’t wait to do laundry until her children are out of underwear and definitely doesn’t get angry with her son but always just listens, patiently with love and oh so much wisdom. AND the actual reality. The me who forgets key ingredients at the store so orders pizza for dinner. The me who starts a 7-day exercise program then after day 3 loses the login and blows it off. And the me who loses her shit at her teenage son. Daily. The logical side of me recognizes that this is “the age” and remembers what I learned in grad school about adolescence. Early Adolescence; the time between childhood and adulthood when they strive for independence only to find loneliness in their achieved solitude, blah blah blah. Doesn’t help AT ALL when you are in the throes of a full-blown rebellion because he can’t have his phone with him during Zoom class even though it is the same rule that has been in place for almost a year. It is like we have been handed scripts for parts that we didn’t audition for, destined to remain in character for all of eternity.
Patterns are an interesting and powerful phenomenon and anyone who has tried to break free of compulsion or an addiction can tell you just how hard they are to conquer.
Because this story plays out generation after generation I wonder if it is somehow ingrained in our evolutionary DNA. Did Neanderthal teenagers rebel against their follicly fortified parents only to be sent to their caves for “grunting back?” If so, what purpose does this dynamic serve? Is it to teach our children early self-advocacy? Is it a way for them to define themselves as a separate self in preparation for ultimately leaving the nest and to face the world alone? If not, how and why are these patterns repeated ad-nauseum?
Before Covid hit I had the idea to start a monthly Whine Club. With an H. Where Moms could come together and just vent. We often feel alone in our struggles only to find so many others who are sharing our turmoil. This was never clearer than when I spoke to my sister the other day. I was having a rant about my son and asked her what she thought I should do. Having raised five amazing children who are now in their late 20’s-30’s she is always my Go-To resource.
She got married when she was 21 and is also five years older than I am so the gap in our actual lives was profound. When I was picking out my prom dress she was nursing her first child. To the outsider, it seemed her life while full and busy was a smooth one. She and my lovely brother-in-law appeared to seamlessly juggle two full-time businesses while being 110% fully present and involved in all of the kids’ sports, academics, friends, hobbies, and lives. My previous misconceptions about their easy ride shattered once she shared some of the challenges they had with my eldest niece who is now almost 37. The self-absorbed and one-sided arguments, the outbursts of anger, the spiteful words, the slammed doors, the rebellion. Check. Check. Check. And Check. I was speechless. As all of her kids are lovely, happy, and well-adjusted humans I listened with rapt attention as she shared some very sage parenting advice.
The biggest takeaway from our talk was that our job as parents is to just hold the line. Steadfast and true, we are to create bumpers for them while making sure they know that we love them no matter what. You can say you hate me, I still love you. You can slam the door in my face, I am still here. You can say I don’t understand, and you may be right. I am your Mom first and foremost. But somewhere inside of me is a 13-year-old girl who gets it. Maybe that’s why these roles keep repeating themselves throughout history; because I also lived through being a teen and on some level understand the need for the lines to be drawn, knowing that when given the chance I didn’t always make the best choices.
But who knows? So for now, just come here and let me hug you.
Because I said so.