Friday, November 13, 2009

Parents as Emotional Loofahs

We don't have these long phone calls very often. G-chat served us well until her employer blocked her access, but emails and texts and the occasional quick question that requires an actual voice-to-ear phone call still keeps us all relatively well-informed of one another's ups and downs.

But every once in a while the land line (yes, we still have a land line) rings at dinner time and it's the Little Cuter, calling to say "Hi!" She's on the speaker phone so TBG and I can listen and smile at each other at the same time in the same place and easily shift off answering instead of talking over each other's voice on an extension. Her physical and financial health is our first priority - do I need to send a bottle of Excedrine Migraine to her at the office or will she remember to bring in one of the 27 little bottles she has at home? Should she have yet another restorative cup of green tea, the wonder cure for the eye-closing-brain-numbing headache followed by the dull-ache-throbbing sensation? These are things a mommy must ask, and they are answered dutifully because she knows that I have to ask them.

That's the balance you strike when you are parenting grown-ups. Years ago, the Little Cuter and I were having one of those arguments mothers and daughters have in the car when I interrupted and asked if her friends' relationships with their mothers were are difficult as ours seemed to be. She nearly plowed the car into Andre Agassi's oleander (yes, they really were his oleander) as she turned to me (the car follows your eyes, Little Cuter !!!) and said "OMG, none of my friends have as good a relationship as we do, Mom."

I felt like I'd just made Dean's List in Teen Parent University.

Never one to let well enough alone, I began to expostulate on what made us so special. She was going off to the Big 10 in 4 months; her whereabouts known only to her from then on. How could I hope to give her anything more than advice at this point? She didn't really need parenting any more. If TBG and I hadn't instilled it in her already, there wasn't much we could do about it in April of her senior year in high school. (G'ma deserves credit for that line - when asked how she could possibly allow me, her soon to be a freshman daughter, to live in one of the first co-ed dorms in the country, she said basically the same thing - "If she doesn't know it now, she'll never know it.")

This did not mean that I was through with her, though. Everyone needs a mother, and she had me. I do not mince my words. I am honest, though I try to be kind. I have no compunctions about telling you that you are wrong even when it's really none of my business. I comment on everything and anything and, because I am your mother, you have to listen. That's all. You just have to listen, with love in your heart and a smile, even a rueful OMG I can't believe she's on this again smile, on your face. Because I am your mother.

Were I to consider this parenting, there would be an expectation of obedience in my ranting and raving, along the lines of the 5th Commandment. But I consider this being a mother, so you can feel free to do what you want because I trust you. I just worry..... and have opinions... and think I know better..... because I am your Mom.

A mother's love has no boundaries, and she is interested in every nook and cranny of your life and has an opinion on the lint she finds in those spaces and you have to listen to it.... up to the point where you tell me that enough is enough. And then I will stop. Because you don't need a parent - you're functioning as a grown up all on your own and doing quite nicely, thank you - but you do need a mother. Everybody needs a mother.

So she calls and she and TBG discuss the business world and what she's learning and how she's growing and then we're on to how happy she is right now not wearing gloves in Chicago's balmy November temps and the snooze-fest that is Biggest Loser this season and the newly posted wedding pictures from our Labor Day adventure in Chicago and all of a sudden we're hearing a deep sigh and out pours her fear and worry and sorrow and anguish for the child of dear friends and for the friends and for her helplessness and her anger and for a while we wallowed in the depth of her reaction.

Between us, TBG and I apparently said all the things that she had been thinking as we tried to help, because after trading the phone back and forth we all realized that we'd been saying the same things for the last 30 minutes. We must be right - we all agree. And we all feel better saying it out loud and being acknowledged by others whose judgment we trust, as if we'd exfoliated the feelings.

Or, as TBG said : Parents as emotional loofahs.

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