I just read a very inspiring book called Circle of Three about a grandmother, mother and granddaughter and their mother daughter relationships. It made me think a lot about the relationship between my own mother, and me and my daughters.
My mother was a very nurturing mother but she didn’t teach me skills. She didn’t allow me to help with dinner. She never taught me how to sew. She certainly never taught me how to raise two daughters. I sort of made it up as I went along.
My mother and my father, to be exact, did everything for me. I wasn’t taught much of anything at home except for religion. My parents were religious zealots who believed everything was sinful. I wore dresses until my sister who was ten years older than me bought me shorts and insisted I should wear them because I was such a tomboy. It was better climbing trees in shorts and not letting the boys see my underwear when I was in a dress. My parents assented to this.
I dressed in guilt every morning of my life but I tried very hard to please my parents. As an adult I very much resent the fact that they didn’t teach me life skills to get through life. In the book one of the women says, “She (her mother) influenced me to not be like her. My mother tried to influence me to be her.
I never really wanted children. I was never around them and frankly, most children pestered the daylights out of me. I determined when I had my first daughter to teach her life skills. With the second daughter I was even more determined to make sure they grew up responsible and able to cope. I didn’t want to be like my mother.
When the girls were very little I sat them on the countertop in the kitchen while I cooked. I talked about what I was cooking and why to put what seasoning in what. Cinnamon didn’t go in cornbread. Sage didn’t go on the pudding. They pulled chairs up to the stove to practice turning pancakes. They used a spatula and a chopstick to turn the cakes. It broke my heart the first time one of them burned themselves on the stove. But it was a lesson learned.
I also was determined that they should enjoy their childhood. I made them play in mud and make mud pies. We went to every playground in the city. I took them sledding in the winter and swimming in the summer. Both my girls were in the pool before six months old. One took to it rapidly but the other one cried entirely too much.
When they were teenagers I insisted that each of them plan and prepare a meal for our family at least once a week. They both turned out to be excellent cooks.
I tried to teach them gardening but they soon lost interest when the little seeds they had planted didn’t come up fast enough. One turned out to be a gardener and the other lives in the desert (the non-swimmer).
When the older daughter was in high school she once told me that if her father and I divorced, she was going to live with him. My heart has never been broken so entirely.
The younger daughter once told her teacher that she adored me and wouldn’t change a thing about me. The teacher wrote me a letter to tell me so and I still have that letter. It almost mended my broken heart.
Another heartbreak was when my parents refused to let me be in band in elementary school and I never learned to read music. Thanks to choir I was able to read music by ear. I could hear my line of music and could pretty much replicate it by memory.
When my girls were in elementary school I encouraged both to join band. I wanted them to know how to read music. I encouraged older daughter to take up the oboe which I dearly love. She played it for years before giving it up to become a percussionist. She loved playing her marimba.
Younger daughter played flute and later piccolo. She taught herself to play the saxophone so she could play in the jazz band at school. She also brought a bass guitar home and learned to play that also. I was very proud of her for doing such.
I started my mourning period when older daughter was a Freshman in high school. I knew she would be leaving me in four more years and I was distraught. I tried to assure myself that I would have a whole year with younger daughter and I would soon be used to having an only child and then a year later be childless.
Having read Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet years ago, I agreed with his philosophy about children. “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And yet they are with you, they belong not to you. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies, but not their souls. For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
I firmly believed this probably because my parents never would have. I wanted to raise two children to go out into the world and make a difference because I couldn’t. Only by helping them to do this, would I have made a difference.
I don’t dote on my children any longer. I let them have their lives and be the person they were meant to be. I think of them often but they are no longer my reason for living. We try to talk or text whenever it comes to our minds to do so. I don’t call them every Sunday and they don’t call me every Sunday.
I live in the knowledge that I raised them properly and they are fine on their own. I know there are parents out there that think about their adult children constantly and would never understand my point of view.
That is fine because I took care of my own backyard, so to speak, and they can take care of theirs in the way they see fit. One part of the book the mother thinks about her mother’s hold on her and she says, “She will spend her life getting over losing her child.” I won’t.
Peace be with you.