Eleven years ago I wrote an email to my mother, thanking her. She responded with answers to my questions. As attribute to all mothers and most especially my own, I am posting this on Mother’s Day.
I was born a blank slate, as are we all. From that point there are three routes.
- The parents write the book of life.
- The child is left, pen in hand, to right his/her own book.
Neither of these is proper.
I was blessed. You took the third and wrote my outline. It contained possibilities and suggestions. In many areas, rather than suggestions were I don’t knows. It was there that I tread alone, discovering what you had not.
You made a lovely cover for my book. Though strong, you made it so that I could revise or replace it. Your goal was to raise me to love this cover, but to choose it of my own accord. Though I have made additions and revisions, I still cherish that cover. It has grown and changed, but the structure you built remains. It is my Faith.
There were many possibilities listed in the outline, but you did not list them for a set place. You listed some for a certain time—age appropriate. But did I not choose these at one time, the chapters remained open.
How did you accomplish this? How can I someday follow in such steps? I am a controlling type. Did you struggle to allow me my independence? Or was it just a little hard? How much of me is Nature and how much Nurture? I formed my own opinions, so they—in a degree—are nature, but I have never been rebellious. What would I have done had you not allowed and encouraged me to think for myself? I am independent minded, but is that only because I was raised to be? I think letting go of control will be difficult for me, but I hope that someday I can be the kind of mother you were. I stand in awe of the job you have done.
My mother answered my questions. Most interesting was her answer to my question as to whether she struggled to allow me to be independent. Her answer: Constantly. She then added that it was never just a little hard.
My Mother’s Response
THOUGHTS on my child raising—how I came to do what I did and why?
STATEMENT of feeling: People are not natural parents. Whether we become parents from conscious choose as I did, or it just happens, we will not always make good choices or bad choices in the way we raise our young.
Some of us will never put our children through what we went through, others may want our children to have what our parents gave to us—but we will each struggle through.
We also bring a ringer to child rearing—a partner that was a part of our raising who has their own ideas of what needs to be in the life of his/her child. In a two parent family, both will have a picture of how they want their child to grow up. We rarely sit down and discuss the differences of how we were raised, both the good and the conflicting feelings that we have about our own childhood. It is essential for a health for each of us to be able to safely research our own feelings looking together at what we each see as positive in bringing a new life into their lives.
I was very lucky in the gift of parents that God gave me. I had two very different, very caring people. They instilled many good qualities to me that I hope I passed on, if in my own way. I was lucky to have a father who encouraged my interest in the theater and a mother who let him. Both of my parents took the time to enter into the developing interests of each of their children in many ways, some active and some passive.
When I returned to college after your father and I separated, I was studying psychology. I was in a new program, and it was open and encouraged each student to actively practice what they were learning. We spent a lot of time of developing GOALS and OBJECTIVES. I was working, but I think for me that the work was superficial. …I thought a lot about the laboratory that I had at home and the specimen that I was working with.
I don’t remember whether it was at this time, or later when teaching pre-school, that I put together the final goal that I will always think of as my way of raising a child.
I want to raise a healthy, well-adjusted adult.
Goals are simple statements. I tried not to elaborate on the simple goal. Objectives of how to achieve that end can discuss different routes to achieve the goal.
I know that I used this statement with parents when I was teaching toddler pre-school, so by that time I had it pretty settled in my mind.
One of the conscious things that I did very early was to set up safety valves for you to go to. I looked to balanced adults that you were around as a part of your every day life. My hope was that you could talk to them about things that you didn’t want to talk to me about. I felt that they were people that would help to secure a strong foundation for your life and who would support you as an adult.
In order to reach the goal, I feel that objectives have to be set. These objectives will constantly be changing depending on the personalities involves. For me, objectives are broad. Each one that I mentally proposed always allowed for your choice, depending on physical, emotional and mental development.
Objectives cannot be constricting, instead they need to be loose enough to allow for personal growth and development. I wanted you to learn how to make choices, both good and poor, and how to live with those choices.
- I am a controlling type.
And I’m not? Just ask…
- Did you struggle to allow me my independence?
- Or was it just a little hard?
Never just a little hard. A parent is constantly letting go and that is very hard.
- I think letting go of control will be difficult for me…
Letting go is always hard, and it starts with birth, where a mother begins the process of letting go—and it continues from there.
In the years since that writing I have learned that I am not as controlling a person as I thought; Sweetheart’s midlife crisis taught me that. I like control, but learned that I want to control my Self and I want others to control their own selves. I used to think that if I did not achieve my goals in life, I would be one of those helicopter parents who lives vicariously through her children—that worried me. But now, as I look back at what I learned about my Self—not only how I changed and grew, but what I already was—I have a greater confidence that I will live up to my Mothers’ legacy.