I was talking to a dear, dear sister about someone she admired and loved with all her heart. How the other woman made her feel comfortable, unjudged, graciously accepted and cared for. Never demanding, never critical, never intruding. How she longed for a mother like that.
What I did not tell her is that the woman’s own daughter longed for a mother like that as well.
It gave me pause. At some time our children become adults who we have to trust, give space and accept. In many ways, we need to approach them as we would strangers.
Yes, there is certainly a time to guide, to nurture to encourage and to harass. But more as we might with friends we know well, rather than as with children who should obey us.
In some ways that time comes when our children no longer need to turn to us for support. But there are times we need to lead into that relationship, just as there will be times when independent children need more from us.
We will all err and make mistakes, one way or the other. Everyone knows spoiled brat children who are indulged. Whose parents forgive and tolerate any trespass – especially those trespasses against others (like the parent whose six year old child runs about fanging and biting other children and adults at church, just not his mom, who coos and accepts the behavior with a “boys will be boys and I’m sure he’ll grow out of it, but isn’t it so cute?”).
But everyone also knows the child who is never good enough, always being poked and prodded and “encouraged” to do better. (Just gave me a flash back to a speech class I took. “Yes, you were the best in the class again, but I just know that you can do better, so I’m giving you another B+ for the assignment” – when I was giving it everything I had. I’ve known people who lived that, not just for a semester, but for their entire lives).
It is a hard thing to feel that you have never lived up to a your mother (or father)’s standards, desires, hopes or goals. That you have always been measured and been found wanting. Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin is a harsh sentence.
In the example I just encountered, the mother told me “see, she doesn’t think I’m judgmental, I hope she will explain that to my daughter, to show her just how wrong that child is.” I sighed (to myself) and thought, “ah, but if only you could not judge your daughter, she would see just how wonderful you can be.” It was more than I could accomplish, though I’m sharing the story here in the hopes that it might help someone else and that I might learn something myself.
I know that sometimes I’m too soft, too indulgent. I know that sometimes I spend too much time trying to prune and nurture my children as well (kind of like a garden that is either not weeded enough or that is overworked). But I’m hoping to learn by others examples and to find a better balance before it is too late and I’m left hoping that strangers will talk to my children and tell them that I’m really not so bad.