Tuesday, May 31, 2011
When it comes to being a mother, your first and natural source of inspiration, wisdom, and technique comes from your own mother. For me, this is a terrifying realization. My mother, who wanted to be a good mother more than anything else in the world, doesn’t measure up to what most mental health professionals would define as a good mother. She’s has the emotional maturity of an eight-year old. This is not an exaggeration, and it is not said to be mean spirited. This is the age my mother lost her mother. And so her maternal learning stopped. So did her emotional growth.
I get this. And I have great compassion for my mother in this regard. I feel sorry for her. She still talks about the pain to this day. Seventy years later. I cannot imagine how hard it was for her, and I wish it could have been different for her. And I wish she would have sought counseling in order to grow and move forward from this tragedy.
But as an adult, I have to set those emotions aside and take a look at what hand I was dealt, and then make a decision on how to best play it. My mother accidentally taught her children to embrace mediocrity. Although she wanted us to make straight As in school and be top athletes so she had bragging rights to the neighbors, she was more than willing to let us quit, fail, stop, halt, or regress whenever we wanted.
Because she wanted us to love her so badly that she would not enforce anything on us that might later cause resentment or alienation.
And you can guess what happened. I resent her. Yes. I do. And I moved 2,000 miles away to achieve the safety of estrangement from her.
I learned from my mother’s parenting style that follow through was unimportant. Therefore, I am a quitter. I have very little will power, almost no discipline, and it takes all of my effort to conger up motivation to do things that lean towards excellence.
I brought this conduct with me from childhood, and I take full responsibility for my inability to un-do the behavior. Yet. I am working on it.
So this week I hit a wall. I hit a wall in parenting. And I fell into the old, comfortable patterns of quitterhood. I find myself letting the boys watch TV way more than they should. Even worse, I am not getting on the floor with them like I used to. Once I heard them count to ten and sing their ABCs, I quit working with them every day. I stopped the reinforcement. The attention. The fun.
It’s like I hit a moniker and call it good. I did this with my dog when I trained him. Together we went through six months of obedience and then some agility. He was a fine, well behaved, attentive dog anyone could be proud of. And then I quit working with him because I figured we were done. And, yes, he started slipping. And, no, I didn’t get it or move to stop it.
I did this with my fitness and health, too. I ran a half marathon. Two of them. Never have I felt so good…so high for so many days. And then I quit running.
Sometimes it seems as if in my life I get out my checklist and start checking away. I gather the freshest, finest, smartest ingredients and then never bother to make the meal. In the back of my head I say to myself that this is good enough. Mediocre is just fine. Average is OK.
But this sort of philosophy and behavior do NOT belong in parenting. Take a look at my dog. He knows what to do and how to behave, and he chooses not to because he knows I have no follow through. He knows I am lazy. He knows my intent does not manifest itself into action.
This is the part in my maternal epiphany where I go screaming out of the apartment in search of a girlfriend. Another parent. Someone to talk to. Or if I am really, really, really lucky my friend Melissa perchance comes over and breathes new light into the darkness of my tired, mothering heart. She makes my boys laugh the way I used to. Yeah. Um. That kind of hurts.
But I need a good, swift kick in the ass sometimes. And I am happy to do it myself.
So parenting takes me on and gives me another round of humility. I know what the lesson is. Now it is time for me to quit being a quitter. So I am going to close my laptop, get out the color books and number books and alphabet toys and get on the floor with my boys. I am going to tickle them. I will read them the story about Nigel the sheep for the 100th time, and I will do it with vim and vigor.
Tomorrow, I’ll get up and do it again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until they are 18-years old. Yes. No. I won’t quit on them. I won’t. I can’t. I won’t.