Thursday, May 14, 2009

Like Mother Like Daughter

I was asked last weekend by a blogger friend how my upbringing influences the way I parent my children. I thought it was a great question that would make for a great blog posting. Especially since it was so close to Mother's Day. I thought about it and thought about it, but everything that came to mind was sounding so cliche and very "Hallmark Card"-ish. I wanted my blog to be genuine and honest. As usual.

(wearing Grandma's rollers)

The last couple of days in our house have been a bit rough. My 18-month old son, Bean (his nickname) has had a pretty nasty cold. He's been waking up during the night with a hacking cough and just not feeling good in general. Since he shares a room with Abby, she hasn't been sleeping very soundly either and this has not made for a very happy camper in the waking hours. Really it's been an unhappy camping party as no one in the house has been sleeping very well.

Last night I reached a breaking point. I've been so busy with school and life in general that I've fallen behind in one of my classes. I'm a good student and this is just plain unacceptable for me. I was in the midst of trying to download software that was crucial to getting caught up in this class and that would allow me to spend more time at home. The kids were entertained and doing fine, but then I had to get into the closet where the dreaded vacuum cleaner is stored. Dun-dun-duuuunnnnn!!!

(Christmas at Grandma D's)

Abby hates the vacuum. I'll admit we put off using it because of this, but when we finally do break-down and vacuum the floors, Abby usually hides in her bedroom, in her bed with her Blankie-Snuggle and her music turned way up. Even with all of her comfort scenarios in place, she usually screams and cries (loudly) until the vacuum is put away. Not just turned off. "Put away!" The cord has to be tightly wound, the vacuum in it's place in the closet and the closet door tightly shut. Even after she has made sure this has all taken place, she still mutters softly to herself over and over again, "All done. All done. All done. All done. All done."

So back to my story. I had to get into the dreaded closet. (Dun-dun-duuuuunnnnn!) And despite my many assurances that I was not vacuuming, Abby was screaming and screaming and screaming! I should have just said some soothing words and let it go, but for whatever reason, I was so annoyed that she wasn't listening to me, that I let it get the best of me.

(cooking with Grandma)

I yelled. I swore. I slammed doors. I bawled my eyes out.
It was not one of my most proud parenting moments.

So what does this have to do with Mother's day and my dear Mother? Sometimes my mom lost it, too. Minus the swearing part, I reminded myself of my mom last night. She was a single mom. She worked 40+ hours per week and struggled to make ends meet. We were typical kids.

She'd get home from work around 4:30 and walk in to a messy house that had been clean when she left it.
We didn't have our homework done and we'd spent the afternoon filling up on cereal and cookies, instead of saving our appetites for the healthy meal she planned to prepare.
Then we'd complain about the dinner she did make and hound her at every turn,
"Mom... mom... mom!"

I remember standing in the doorway of the bathroom once as she yelled at me,
"Can't I even go to the BATHROOM without an audience?!!!"

And every couple of months, she'd reach her breaking point and we'd all have to endure a fun-filled evening of yelling and inevitably, crying.

I don't look back on these memories with anything other than understanding and compassion. My mom was a great mom! She worked hard and when we repaid her hard work with typical childish thoughtlessness, she let us know how ungrateful we were in the only way she knew how. I'm sure she would have judged herself harshly for letting those moments get the best of her, but I learned a very important lesson during those times.

(In case you've ever wondered what I'll look like when I'm 50)

I learned that my mom was human.
That she wasn't perfect.
That she had feelings.
That being a grown-up was hard and to be thankful that I was still a kid.
I learned that I needed to help my mom out around the house,
because she was doing the job of two parents.
But it would be years before I truly understood just how hard her life was during those years. And because I'm blessed to have an understanding and helpful husband, I don't think I'll ever truly grasp the challenges that she faced.

Usually at the end of one of "those" nights we'd all end up hugging and apologizing for our bad behavior. My mother included. She'd apologize for losing her cool. We'd apologize for being ungrateful kids. And we'd all end up loving each other just a little bit more.

(2 of 3 ungrateful-turned-grateful-children with their amazing mom)

This does not excuse my bad behavior last night. Abby is not an ungrateful child. She is an Autistic kid who is terribly frightened of the vacuum cleaner. I should have been understanding and patient, but I wasn't. So I took a cue from my mom. I apologized to Abby for yelling at her. I hugged her. I kissed her. I vowed to try better next time. My loving and patient husband also had a talk with her and Abby came to me with hugs and kisses and apologized for not listening and screaming when I was trying to reassure her.

I hope that someday when Abby is an adult, that she'll look back on times like last night and recognize that I was human. That I made mistakes, but that I loved her the best way I knew how. And when I didn't do my best, that I turned around and tried to do better. I hope she loves and respects me as much as I love and respect my mom. She wasn't perfect, but she always tried to improve herself and in the long run I think she did a pretty darn good job.

(Doing Grandma's dishes. Something I was never very good at doing.)


Delores said...

Thank you, Erin. My eyes are leaking as I read this :o) In many ways we all learned and grew up together and I am so proud of all of you!! God is faithful!

Sarah said...

Thank you!

My name is Erin. said...

Delores aka. Mom... You're welcome. Thank YOU! I love you and I'm proud of you, too.

Sarah... You're welcome and thank you for your friendship!

Trojan Gayle said...

Hi Erin, as you probably have guessed I am a big fan of your blog! First of all- thanks for linking me into your post and using my question as a basis for your posting.

I had to read and really think about your post and relate it to my own experience and it made me wonder what type of parent i would be. Hopefully a good one!

Honestly and truth can set you free, but it can also touch the deepest part of your heart and i think that your post really achieved that.

You showed that being a parent can be wonderful but at time dam right hard. No Disney movie that ends happily ever after as life goes on and on.

You shared your flaws and all and that what makes this post perfect. Thanks for sharing it with your readers. Listen to the song by Beyonce called Flaws and all - this post made me think of that song.

My name is Erin. said...

That's a great song. It's so true. None of us are perfect or without flaws. We all make mistakes. It's what we do with those mistakes. Do we learn from them and move on or do we keep repeating them? Continuing to hurt those around us over and over again?

My mom and I were talking about this blog before and after my mom read it, and we were talking about how her parents always kept her sheltered from any "drama" that they went through and how it resulted in her being ill-prepared to handle conflict in her adult life. It's through these scenarios that we learn conflict resolution, for better or for worse.

Her parents would never argue in front of her, so in her relationships, she'd never had a model. My husband and I do argue (as long as the topic is child appropriate) in front of our kids. And more importantly, we make up in front of them. My hope is that they learn how to communicate with others in ways similar to how my husband and I do. We're a pretty good team. :)

Trojan Gayle said...

Yes I agree with you approach, I had a conversation with Sally the other day and I was telling her that I believe the role of a parent is to prepare a child for adulthood. You cant do this by shielding them from the realities of adulthood as you will be doing them a disservice later in life. I just wonder how easy it is to put that approach into action - but that's what i believe now and it seems that you are putting it into action.

i think that your pictures a blog do show you trying to explore and answer these questions on a personal level which I think will make your readers reflect on their own life situation.

Like you i talk to my mum and we discussed her parental style and what we both thought about it.

Like your mom, my mother had it hard raise to boys, but I have nothing but admiration for what show achieved. She wasn't perfect but she fought for us and done what she thought was right even when I think she didn't have a clue what to do. Her heart was in the right place.

andreeuhakaandi said...

per usual i am always inspired/impressed by your writings. i admire you. i am always entertained and educated by whatever you have decided to share with the world.
thank you!
i love hearing about Abbey and Autism!

My name is Erin. said...

Thanks, Andi. I'm just glad someone is reading my blog. :) I'm encouraged by everyone who reads, but especially by the mothers out there who read it. Because I think it's hard for us to have an honest dialogue about motherhood. We feel so much pressure to be perfect parents and there's no such thing. Happy Belated Mother's Day! I sense that you're a pretty amazing mother yourself. XOXO I'm glad you're in my life.

paula said...

I just love your honesty! My mom was a random yeller and now I find myself there too at times. I always feel so awful after I hope to get it under control, like, now.

jasmine said...

awww! abby is so cute!

i linked to you on my blog today. i just LOVED that little story about your grandparents that you left in a comment yesterday.

My name is Erin. said...

Paula- I think the fact that we feel remorseful afterward means we're headed in the right direction. If we felt we were justified, we'd have something to worry about. Also. As long as we're not doing it every day or every week... the fact that we try to be better parents each and every day... that's what counts. My mom was an amazing mother! I'm so blessed that I had her for an example!

Jasmine- That is sooo exciting! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Great post sis! It made me remember several ocassions where we were the vinegar in moms baking soda filled volcano. lol! odd memory alert: cast iron pan covered with pizza pan lid, with brocolli steamed on top of the rice-a-roni. I use this fine epicurian techinique from time to time. thanks mom! i love you! You have many talents little sister. I miss and love you very much!

Delores/mom said...

Wow.......hadn't read the comments for awhile. I was touched and moved to both tears and laughs. I am thankful we all survived those years, developed our humorous side and today not only love each other but enjoy each others company.