It’s time for us to have a little talk. Of course, it’s my platform here, so I’m talking and maybe you’ll listen. You are all almost adults now, and well, that requires some adjusting. For all of us. I want to be clear, I really do understand that this is an adjustment for you as well. We’re all figuring things out, as they morph and change, each time we see each other. And that’s where this letter begins, two of you don’t live here anymore. You’re growing up, and I’m growing back… into the person I was, before I was your Mom. So let’s get a few things cleared up.
While I was clearly born to be your mother, I wasn’t born your mother.
I evolved into it, through many years of trial and error, highs and lows, and a whole lot of love; and this progression is critical to our future understanding of each other. I was not born a mommy, I became one. I had a whole life before you, and now as you each leave me, to figure out your own paths, I am figuring out some things too. It’s the me that comes after all the fun of raising you: Me 2.0. You guys probably give it very little thought day-to-day, but the life you’ve lived up until this point informs your whole perspective now. Children are probably way off your radar (let’s just agree to that). So believe me when I tell you, that one day, when you have your own children, you may find yourself a little disoriented; it may be hard to remember that this whole world you’re in right now, ever happened. It’s so easy to forget who you were, before you were blinded by your children’s sparkle.
That said, I was not born your mother. I was born me. I was a daughter first: I was loved and special to my parents.
Then I was a girl: I played and grew. I became a teen: I experimented, I had crushes, I played some more. When I was a young woman: I went out in the world and explored; I fell in love; I had my heart broken; I was a lover– Ok, so it’s time you knew, I did have sex… not just the three times that resulted in you. There, I said it. I fell in love for real; it’s not a simple thing. We dated, we grew as a couple– met each other’s families, had some fights, made up, grew some more, and we decided to get married– and we had some more fights along the way, and made up again. It takes time; it was an important time in my life.
Eventually, after nearly a quarter of a century, and three years as a wife, I became a mom. If you were paying attention in this paragraph, you may have noticed something, none of it– until that last sentence, involved you. In fact, this time line says: I had a very full life before you came, and I’m letting you know now, I’m looking forward to a very full life as each of you go, and I shift on my axis again.
However, just because I’ve been there and done that, doesn’t mean it’s easy to do it again. Just as confused, nervous and excited as you may feel about going off to college, graduating from college, and finding your way in the world after college (and we have all three happening this year), I’m feeling many of the same things about the changes in my world. I’ve made a lot of progress in letting go, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint; and let’s face it, I’m not a runner anyway. I’ve learned to sleep pretty well at night not knowing where two of you are; I spend my days not knowing where you are or what you’re doing, as well. I’ve adjusted to one of you living in another country full-time, and did pretty well when one of you was living in Asia for seven months. The fact that my youngest is looking at colleges and is facing lots of change, is another punch to roll with… but, I think I’m rolling pretty well in the stop, drop and roll of life. Honestly, I think I’ve come a long way in the process of figuring out how to be a mother from afar. It’s a marathon…
I’ve done some adjusting, but in every relationship, there’s give and take. You have some adjusting to do as well. Of course it’s all about perspective. This is my perspective, and here are a few of the things I’d like to see you focus on.
1) While I am so happy and grateful that when you visit family and friends, your dad and I constantly hear that you are respectful, polite and helpful, fun to have around, and overall great people– truly, it warms my motherly heart– I’d love to see that same thing at home. You guys have chosen to live in other countries, other states, other places… that’s great! That’s what you were raised to do: fly! I love that you are finding exciting lives and feeling happy where you landed. But spread the love my little birds; spread the love.
When you arrive home, take a moment to collect your bearings. Things will have moved and shifted during flight.
Dont’ take it personally. The cereal isn’t there anymore, it works better for me, here. Just because your closet makes a good storage area now, doesn’t mean you haven’t still left your mark on a room. As I walk into each of your rooms, I never fail to pause and miss you; then I put my stuff where yours used to be. When I visit you, I will do things the way you want them done, but when you come home, you need to take a deep breath and just be an adult. If you want us to see you as one, you need to act like one. If I want dishes washed and put away when you’re done eating, do it. If you don’t like the way we do things, we understand that; we didn’t like the way our parents did things. Your grandparents weren’t born your grandparents either (I know, scary how the world isn’t exactly what you always thought); they were our parents first, and we went through all of the things you might be thinking and feeling now, with them. It’s a right of passage– but your rights end there. At a certain point, it’s our way or the… well, there’s no other way. Mi casa es mi casa, now. You are always welcome– until you aren’t.
2) I have thoughts, feelings, experiences to share with you. I know we are never going to be best friends; that’s not how it’s suppose to be, and I’m totally fine with that. However, I do like all three of you an awful lot. I would pick you out of a crowd. You’re charismatic, you’re intelligent, interesting, fun people– and let’s face it, you’re all easy on the eyes. I love hearing your stories; I love sharing in your lives. I want honesty and respect between us, as the power shifts and I’m no longer totally in charge. But don’t be confused; at home, I am still in charge, even if there’s been some shifting. Outside of that arena, there can be a lot more give and take.
Ask me about my day, ask me about my life, and then listen to the answers.
Again, I was not born your mother and I may have some interesting things to share. You may have something to learn from me, at this stage. Don’t cut me off, because you think you’ve heard it all before, or because I sound like… well, your mother. Yes, I repeat stories sometimes, but that’s generally because those stories are important to me. Things have shifted; try to tune in. Believe it or not: I dated; I had relationships; I lived in an apartment and learned to cook, pay bills, and deal with roommates. I went to an excellent college and kept excellent grades, and no, it wasn’t easier then. I went to grad school; and yes, I wish I had waited. I fell in love, and I had my heart broken… more than once, not just by your dad. I haven’t forgotten these things, and as you go through them, I might have something to share that you can learn from. Deciding what to do in life was then, and still is, complicated and challenging. Hearts still break the same way, and only time heals.
Of course, you’ll learn your own lessons; we all do, but it helps to have a guide sometimes. I’m in it for the long haul. So ask me, and then listen… patiently.
3) Listening patiently is a skill; it takes practice. As your parents, there were a lot of years when your dad and I told you what we thought/wanted/expected, and you listened. I’ve said it for years: this is not a democracy, and when you were little, that was especially true. That, too, is shifting. As adults, we have things to learn from you, just as you have things to learn from us. If we are all able to slow down a little and listen more patiently, we’ll all come out wiser and happier on the other side. It’s so easy to fall into patterns (good and bad) that we formed in our many years of living together. Just as you are out there growing and changing, please accept that I am still growing and changing too. Apparently you can in fact teach an old dog new tricks; but, I am not as keen to fetch these days, as to play. When we see each other, don’t assume you know what I think, what I feel, or what I meant to say. If I say it wrong, give me a minute to clarify. Listen to the words; don’t just anticipate the meaning. I’m trying to do the same thing. Marathon, babies, marathon.
4) Show some respect, and we will do the same. Again, I am not your friend; I am your parent, and an adult. I have earned the right to some seniority, just as you are in the process of earning your right, down the line. Don’t challenge me, as if I am not your elder. If I tell you to pick something up and put it away, do not point out that I need to put something away too. I put lots and lots of things away that are not mine, on a regular basis, and have since you were born. Let me be very clear about this: if we were to keep score, I’d win, hands down. So show some respect. Some day, when you are saying these things to your own kids, you may want me in your court. Bank on that.
5) Know that no matter how old you are; no matter how much more you know about a given subject, than me (and that happens a lot, lately), no matter how far away you go, or what you do, I will always be your Mom first. It informs every decision, every action, every gesture I make. It is as natural to me as breathing; it can not be turned on and off. So when I sound more like a mother than an interested second party, that’s because I am. All of these things I’ve suggested, all of the efforts I make, will always be tested in those moments when my heart is tugged, and I forget the new directions we’re all traveling in. Don’t throw it in my face; don’t challenge it. Embrace it! There are far worse things in life than to be loved this much, and the sooner you embrace and hold that dear, the better things will be between us.
It’s hard to summarize all of the lessons, all of the ideas, all of the thoughts that I might want to pass on. It’s even harder to keep pace in that marathon. We all stumble and we all shine, given the day or hour. I celebrate your journey and hope you’ll celebrate mine. Life is short, and the years fly by. The sooner we find our groove, the nicer it is for each of us.
I love each of you, independently and collectively, more than you can know now. By the time you do know, you’ll have your own lessons to teach… And, I’ll have grandchildren to spoil.
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