This guest post is by: Jamie Wallace is one half of the mommy team behind Fans of Being a Mom (the other half being the fabulous Meredith Tedford). Jan Howarth is Jamie’s mom and mommy mentor.
Sometimes, it takes a whole generation for mother and teen to finally see eye-to-eye.
From daughter to mother~
The biggest gift experience gives us is perspective. When I was a teenager, my experience was limited by my years and so was my perspective. The scope of my vision only went as far as what I could see, hear, and feel for myself. I knew only what it was like to be a teenager, and had no idea what it was like to be a mother. I had not yet walked a mile in those shoes.
Today I am the mother of a spirited and independent young girl. At seven years old, she already keeps me constantly on my toes. As she grows up, I am growing in my understanding of what it means to be someone’s mother. I am learning what it must have been like for my mom.
Although my daughter is not yet in her teens, being her mom has already shown me truths about the mother/daughter relationship that I would never have believed when I was driving my parents crazy during those volatile, teenaged years. Here are my top three epiphanies about my own mom:
- She really did have my best interests at heart. I thought she made me do chores because she wanted free labor. I thought she was strict about curfews because she wanted to control my every move. I thought she asked me all those personal questions because she was nosy. As a mom, I now know that all those actions were based in love, in wanting me to be the best person I could be. Though I never would have admitted it then, I learned so much about responsibility, making smart choices, and how to talk about the hard stuff.
- She did understand. A recurring theme in the diary entries from my teen years was, “She just doesn’t understand!” I howled and sulked about how much my mother didn’t “get” me, or “it,” or anything about what it was like to be a teenager. I couldn’t imagine how she could possibly have any frame of reference. Turns out, moms do understand. We understand because we’ve been there. And we remember. It’s not like when you turn twenty (or thirty, or forty, or fifty) that your memories of the teen years are expunged from the archives of your brain. Those experiences stick with you forever. And no matter how many decades lie between mom’s teen years and her daughter’s, the issues, crises, and drama remain pretty much the same as they always were.
- She could be hurt. Growing up, I assumed my mom was invincible. No amount of pleading, tears, or the silent treatment could sway her. She sometimes came across as heartless in her stoic immobility once she’d made a decision. The truth is, mom’s feelings can be hurt. Deeply. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that the pain that comes from difficulties with a child is like a mother’s Kryptonite. It is our greatest weakness, but we cannot give in to it if we are going to do the right thing.
All of this I’ve learned in the first seven years of my daughter’s life. I can only imagine what I’ll learn in the next ten, twenty, and beyond. It’s good to walk in someone else’s shoes and feel things they way they do. It can’t help but bring you closer together.
From mother to daughter ~
Older and wiser, eh? Well, I’m turning sixty-four this month, so the “older” part is definitely right. But “wiser”? I certainly can say I have learned a lot. I can also say that what I look forward to most is learning more!
Remember the Beatle’s song, “When I’m Sixty-Four”? Many of you probably don’t. (“Bugs?” you’re saying. “Why is she talking about bugs?”) In the song, which came out the year I was married, a young man asks his girlfriend if she’ll still love him when they’re sixty-four: “Will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?” I was twenty. Sixty-four seem ever so far away.
I was barely twenty-two when I became a mom for the first time. And eighteen months later, I had a second daughter. Now I have a soon-to-be-eight-year-old granddaughter. Here are a few insights I’ve come up with along this journey—a journey I’d never trade for anything in the world:
- Time does fly. You’re sleep deprived and you’re desperately trying to calm and comfort your crying, colicky baby. You’re standing in line in a snow-bound airport and your two-year-old decides to throw the mother of all temper tantrums. You watch your grade-school child struggle with the class bully. Your teenager has just stormed out of the house screaming, “You don’t understand me!” All right … conversely, you sit for hours and watch the amazing, beautiful, and peaceful sleep of your infant. You frolic in fall leaves with your toddler and giggle right along with him. You watch and encourage as your grade-school child learns to read. And you cheer along with your teenager when she gets her license. When you’re “in” these moments—good or bad—it seems as if they will last forever. But they don’t. Hold onto them. Write them down.
- There’s no such thing as a mistake. We all do things we wish we hadn’t when we think about them later. But most of the time, we’re doing the best we can at the moment. I like to think we learn when our actions and words don’t bring about the result we want, and we change our behavior so we have a more positive outcome the next time. Everyone is new at being a parent the first time around. And everyone has to learn from experience. No one “knows it all” right up front. And no amount of advice from any source is going to fill the void. I learned more from my children along the way than I ever did from anyone else. Relax, and be forgiving—to yourself and to your children. And never be afraid to say, “I wish I’d done that differently. Next time will be better.”
- Don’t lose “who you are.” There is life beyond raising children. I never realized that when I was in the middle of it. Many parents feel that, to be good parents, they must put their lives on hold and devote all their efforts to their children. I don’t think that works well for the parents or the children. As humans we need to grow and expand and learn every day. If we deny ourselves this growth—personal interests and activities—we become stagnant, dull, uninspiring parents. A totally selfless parent sends the wrong message: the child is the center of the universe and the parent is a second-class citizen. Children who see their parents struggle and achieve are encouraged to do the same. They learn that life is a growing process. They learn to see their parents as fellow citizens. And this leads to wonderful relationships between grown children and their parents, who end up more like friends than parent/offspring pairs.
The bottom line is that I hope I never stop growing and learning. My granddaughter and I tumbled out of a canoe into a chilly, deep, swift river the other day. Although other family members were right there to rescue us, it was a little traumatic, and it was a great learning experience for both of us. We learned we were braver than we though we were, that we could trust each other in a pinch, and that we could laugh at “disaster” when we learned we weren’t in any real danger. And we learned that wet panties are not that comfortable on a long car ride home.
Jamie Wallace is one half of the mommy team behind Fans of Being a Mom (the other half being the fabulous Meredith Tedford). Jan Howarth is Jamie’s mom and mommy mentor.
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