Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Sideline

I was on the phone with my mother the other day and shared a particular difficulty I was having with one of the girls. I told her some ideas of things that might help the situation (including one involving food, because after all I think most everything can be cured by some alteration in your diet..).  She listened and responded supportively,  "sounds interesting" in regards to the research and "couldn't hurt to try".
A little later she pointed out that, actually, we had had a similar situation with one of the older children when they were preschoolers.  She reminded me that that was cured by some discipline and not so much by food.
I received it.  She is probably right.  It might be a little of the other, but mostly ...

The reason for that story is this.  When she pointed that out to me, when she, in essence, made a child rearing suggestion to me, I didn't feel the least little sting. 
My feathers weren't ruffled, and it wasn't because I am particularly good at that sort of thing.

Why is that?
It is something I have thought about a fair amount because I have been repeatedly surprised by how few adult women seem to have a good relationship with their mom.  They feel criticized at every turn, unaccepted.  They hide things from her because they don't want her, presumably negative, opinion.
I don't have that with my mom. 

I am not sure of all of the reasons but I can speculate. 
She didn't fear man, or teacher or anyone else who was doing something not in the best interest of her children.   
She let me be a separate person with my own opinions.
We spent a lot of time together just the 2 of us in my middle school and high school years.  She was my "best friend" as I proclaimed one night, sitting in a canoe, in the dark, on the James river, me having had a beer or two and she a glass of wine.
Maybe the fact that I even have that story says a lot.

She took her family seriously.  She took her job seriously.  Herself?  Not so much.
And with that came a humility, an air, communicated to me at 8 and 18 and 48, that she didn't think she had all the answers. 
She had some. 
She actually had many, but she never made me feel that she had the corner market on them. 
I could have some answers too.
I could tell her which jumper looked good with what, what paint color was best for the kitchen, whether her idea for a project for her class was a flop or a fly.
She respected me.
Ultimately though, the thing with the largest impact, is that my mom has always been in my corner.

She supported me when I was going to be a school teacher, and when I was going to be a biologist, and when I was taking random classes with no apparent major in sight.
For more than four months after I went off to school she listened to me on the phone for hours at a time because I was so homesick.  And, it was over 25 years later when my own daughter moved out before she confessed that she would sometimes cry after she hung up the phone with me. 
She sent me care packages for every holiday listed on the Hallmark datebook, with treats for my roommate as well.
She shopped for cute work clothes with me when I wanted a career and then rallied for me when I quit that and wanted to go back to school 
She supported me with yet another round of phone calls when I decided to drop out of medical school and delighted in me staying home full time with my children. 
Despite 30 some years as a public school teacher, she managed to swallow most of her reservations when we decided to home school (she probably figured it wouldn't last any longer than the other things) and sent me curriculum ideas. 
She has done nothing but tell me how wonderful my children are on a regular basis.
I can receive her suggestions, because they are so rarely given.  The deafening noise on my sideline is her enthusiasm for me, not her criticism.

In short she has been my first, biggest, and best cheerleader all of my life.

So, since someone asked me recently, "do you have any advice for young mothers?"
It is this.
Cheer loudest.
Always cheer loudest.

That is what she did.  It is what she continues to do!  

"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

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