Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Suit Yourself.

One of my mom's go-to phrases is, "Suit yourself." Often, she modifies that to, "Shoot yourself," which is more accurate, because when she uses that phrase she's basically saying, "You're an idiot for [insert stupid decision here.]" I cringe every time she says it. I think if one of your children has, in fact, shot himself, you need to strike that phrase from your vocabulary, but that's really not what this is about.

I cringe a lot because I rarely make the decisions my mom would or thinks I should. My decisions are nearly always met with eye-rolling, shoulder shrugging, sighing, and, yep, "Shoot yourself." I am not the same mother as my mom. I'm not passing judgement on either of us; I'm just saying. In 18 years as a mother, I've tried to make up for all the areas in which my own childhood felt unfulfilled. If I were discussing this on a talk show, this is the point where Dr. Phil would say, "How's that workin' for you?"

Last week, I laughed out loud when I got a notification for a free Kindle book: Not Like My Mother: Becoming a Sane Parent After Growing Up In a Crazy Family. While it might have been a better idea to read this before I became a parent, what the heck, I still have lots of mistakes to make. Before reading it, I envisioned myself feeling totally validated, nodding in agreement and amen-ing a lot. Unfortunately, what I realized not too far in was that I was trying so hard to meet my own childhood needs that perhaps I wasn't meeting my children's needs. Oh crap.

Just the other day, Chloe and I had a conversation, and while the language was different--I never said shoot or suit yourself--Chloe said, "Mom, I feel as if you don't agree with what I'm doing." She was right; I didn't agree. But after closer examination, I realized that I didn't agree with the choice in question for myself, not Chloe. I always think of empathy as one of my finer character traits, but I realized at this point: I was being pathologically empathic. I wasn't just putting myself in Chloe's shoes. I was trying to put her shoes on and walk her path.

Often, my kids have shown me that they need different things than I needed as a child. Of course, that's logical since they didn't have the same childhood, but obviously I didn't really get it. Peyton told me in a very grown-up fashion, "GET OUT," when I walked into the dugout after he was injured on a play. Heartbroken, I sulked back to my chair. If I had gotten injured as a child, I would have wanted one of my parents to comfort me, which rarely happened. When we got hurt, we weren't picked up and loved on, we were usually told which facet of our stupidity had led to the injury. Later, Peyton told me, in a really grown up fashion, "Mom, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, but you can't come in the dugout because that embarrasses me." I got it, Buddy.

Reading this book has opened my eyes in ways I never expected. I realized just how often I'm subconsciously making choices based on what I would have wanted or needed as a child rather than paying attention to what three of the most important people in my life need. At any given drama in my life, one of my best friends will show up asking, "What do you need?" And she really means it. She has no agenda, and I'm certain that no matter what I told her I needed, she'd do her best to accommodate me. I rarely ask my kids what they need. I assume I know. And way too often, I'm wrong.

I'm never sure where to go or what to do after these revelations. My kneejerk reaction would be to feel incredibly guilty for all the ways I've fallen short as a mother over the years, but I've at least learned that is extremely non-productive. Move forward, make changes, maybe have another baby so I can try to get it right from the start?Just kidding, Brad Bell. Juuuuuuuust kidding.

2 comments:

  1. I guess one of us should have pointed this out? I just assumed you knew it and either didn't give a crap or had made an executive decision that it was the right choice. I always err on the side of you being as preternaturally self-aware as I am (not that I generally do anything with this knowledge other than wave to my head-shaking self as I run by naked with my hair on fire in the midst of one or another ludicrously self-destructive acts). And almost as modest. Almost.

    All that said, I think another child is ABSOLUTELY the right idea. It may be the best idea you have ever had in a lifetime of unrecognized genius. If this idea had a face, it would be so beautiful that men and women would throw themselves naked in front of it. If this idea could sing, sirens around the world would shoot themselves in the face rather than go on living knowing that their voices were the functional equivalent of a cat being raped when compared to this idea's voice. If this idea were a movie, they would award it every Oscar and simply stop making movies.

    Also, don't forget her father-in-law blew his brains out as well. Or shot himself somewhere. The gunplay is strong in this family. We're like the fucking Jedis of shooting ourselves.

    Becoming aware of your behavors will only make you a better mother than you already are and you've always seemed pretty good at it.

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    1. I'm pretty sure that the nicest thing you have ever said to me lies peacefully nestled in the sarcasm of these paragraphs. Thank you :)

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