Have you ever heard that you never really appreciate your parents until you become a parent yourself? For me, that is not true.
I think that on a certain level I have always realized that I have two really "good" parents. I have always felt their love and support. For the most part, my childhood was stable and care-free because they worked hard to make it so, and even when I was very young, I could compare the attention, moral direction, and affection I received from my mom and dad with my peers' families and know that I was fortunate. In fact, I have always had confidence in my ability to parent because I knew I grew up with great role models.
On the other hand, it is true that since D. became my son, I've gained an expanded view of my parents' relationship with me. Because I realize they may feel the same heart-searing dedication to my well-being and emotional fulfilling that I feel for D., and knowing that I may be just as cherished - with such forgiveness for my foibles, and such interest in the mundane details of my life - I feel differently about them.
As good as my relationships with my parents are, they have certainly been strained at times. I'd say that my mom in particular brings out the best and the worst in me. Perhaps it is because I have the confidence that she'd still love me even if I were an ax-murderer that I don't always treat her in an exemplary way. I get short and snippy. I lose my patience. I needlessly point out her weaknesses and get angry and defensive when she points out mine. She pushes my buttons, and I push hers back, even harder.
My mom is getting older. And as is typical with aging, she's become more rigid and perhaps a bit slower. Never-the-less, she gets up early every Monday morning to drive through traffic and come spend hours upon hours on the carpet playing trains, or reading stories, or blowing bubbles with her youngest grandchild. She volunteers enthusiastically to babysit (and often when we return, the laundry is folded, too!) With my wily little toddler, she shows such patience, energy, and sense of adventure, it overwhelms me. The are such clear manifestations of her love.
So, when I came across the text below, which is attributed to "Spring in the Air," it really moved me.
Letter from a Mother to a Daughter:
My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”... Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.
When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl? When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way... remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day... the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.
If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you. And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don’t feel sad... just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared.
With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you... my darling daughter.
As a parent, now I realize that the overwhelming love we feel for our children makes us vulnerable. Even when I can rationalize my son's behaviour as typical toddler antics, his frequent "daddy preference" or refusals of bedtime kisses and such slight rejections really hurt me. So now, when I roll may eyes at something my own mom has said for the umpteenth time, I try to remember how that small expression might wound her the way it wouldn't if it came from anyone else.
I am learning so much from D. and from being his parent. My perspective on my work, my marriage, and my own family of origin is evolving because of my relationship with him. Right now, it is certainly bringing a greater sense of compassion to my connections with my own parents. It's a compassion I hope to sustain and grow with patience, energy, and a sense of adventureas we all continue to age.