Motherhood: My example
(this is presented in lieu of new content because I had my eyes dilated and my head still hurts! Originally published at TIBU on:10/24/2007 Presented here with edits and additions.)
My beloved mother is 90 now, and in exceptional health, considering. My father was always an almost overshadowing element in my life, but my mother was a quiet constant - always there, always with me, always able to help me no matter what. She’s still my best friend and confidant, and I treasure her greatly.
Mother taught me valuable lessons all my life, and I think the most valuable (and certainly the most memorable) came right after my high school graduation, when I was seventeen.
Before I go further let me describe her. Mother, when you meet her, looks and acts like the epitome of a middle/upper middle class woman from southern Missouri. She’s beautiful, even now her hair isn’t completely silver, and only started to grey in her late 60’s. She always dresses impeccably and keeps a huge Victorian house spotless with only the help of a housekeeper who comes in once every week or so. She’s pleasant and kind and would take in any stray she sees, human or otherwise. She has a full pot of coffee on all day and late into the night, and welcomes her friends when they drop in. She’s a bit of a hermit herself, but loves company so everyone knows to come see her, because chances are she won’t go see them.
My house was the house where all the kids hung out, partly because my Mother was so much fun. For all her gentle ladylike ways, she has a wicked verbal left hook and can "fix your wagon" good and proper with a loving smile - it's well known that you're not really part of "the family" until she's given you a good verbal put down, and my friends look forward to it and brag after she's teased them severely. Curses are a rarity out of her mouth, but she does understand that profanity has a place in the language and she has used several spicy words to emphasize her feelings. And that takes us to a scene shortly after I graduated high school in the mid 1980's.
My Mother sat me down and said (almost verbatim, it's a conversation I memorized because it was so pivotal):
"Teresa, we're very proud of you. Your father and I feel like we've raised you to be a good adult, and we're confidant that when you go away to school you'll take care of yourself and be good. Don't think that your father and I won't still try to run your life, because we are your parents and that's what we do. However, the difference between yesterday and today is, today you can tell us to go to hell."
She packed a whallop with that little speech, and in my opinion she did what every parent ought to do. She offered a lifetime of advice and counsel and a little bit of smacking when she thought I'd need it, but in the same breath gave me the ultimate sign that I was truly an adult and on my own: The ability to say "No thanks, that's not the way I'm going to do it." I knew right then and there that they'd respect me for my choices in life, and they'd support me in my path whether they liked what I was doing or not.
I think that speech was what kept me so close to my parents, and kept my life fairly well in control. Knowing I could do what I felt was right with their support, I was able to really listen to what they said and make better choices based on their wisdom. I'm eternally grateful to the woman for giving me that incredible gift as a young adult. With luck I'll be able to do the same thing for my son when he's ready to head away from home.