My Mom and Thor’s Mom, and Their Kids

Life is hard and I’m terrified they’re not tough enough (toughen up girls! Learn to push back!). But really? They’re good enough for their life, no matter what. They’re the ones living their life. And if you don’t think life at 5 is “real” yet, you don’t remember being 5. They make hard choices everyday. The impressions made upon them last forever. –Amy “Lobster” Arden on parenting small people.

Thor and I had a rough morning and I’m kicking myself over it. Why? Because I can remember having the same mornings with my mom, and how hard it was to get on with a day, feeling so misunderstood and small. This morning, it was getting socks and shoes on, and zipping up the backpack. Five minutes after being asked to take care of it, and I find the child barefooted and playing with a monster truck, backpack flapping open. So normal. So familiar–I remember how distracted I was by everything, and how really unforgiving my mother seemed.

And we had a rough evening yesterday, mainly due to my impatience, but exacerbated by a normal five-year-old’s impulse control issues. That ended with a lot of howling (on his part) and a lot of growling (on mine.)

I am never proud of devolving into the mother who is hissing, “Shut. Your. Mouth. Right. Now.” through her teeth. I suppose I could be proud that I am not the mother screaming it into his face? Shut your mouth just seems so rude, and as I’ve caught myself using it a handful of times, I intend to remove it from my vernacular. That, along with, “I don’t care if [insert whatever latest injustice is being argued], I said [insert whatever it is that I have said.]”

I’ve been thinking about something for a few days. I am highly likely to tell you my missteps and mistakes. I’m not Catholic, so I can’t go to confession (really, I should have been born Catholic–it’s too late now and I respect the believers of the faith too much to pretend my way up to the rail), but it is such a relief to me to expose my misdeeds, that I end up telling on myself all the time. “I did thisandsuch and I was so wrong! And I have learned my lesson, and here is how I plan to ensure that it never happens again!” I have an overdeveloped sense of guilt and responsibility.

Knowing, as you and I both do, that Thor is as human as the next little nose picker, I’m sure we can nod in sympathetic agreement that there are going to be those days. But when those days happen, I am a lot likelier to tell you about how I mismanaged (or aced) them because I am the grown-up and my expectation is that I will be the one who handles the situation.

My mother would as soon cut you as say anything derogatory about me. Actually, she would rather cut you. My mom doesn’t talk about me. My mom won’t even put up pictures of me at work, because she doesn’t want to invite your discussion. I am her treasure, and she keeps me locked up tighter in her heart than the crown jewels. Unless you have something nice to say, you are wise not to bring me up in conversation with her. She will be respectful to a point, then she will destroy you like the verbal version of Mortal Kombat.

Does my mother think I am perfect? LOL! My mother has bailed me out of jail, picked me up from some questionable clubs in the middle of the night, hauled me off to detentions and In School Suspensions, hired tutors and therapists to fix me, and been so angry she couldn’t even look at me without her head spinning. My mother knows, and knows better than anyone other than my husband, how grossly imperfect I am. She will not tell you that, though.

Why? Let’s let her tell you. “It’s none of their damn business. You’re mine.”

By the way, “none of your damn business” is my family’s code phrase for “and now I will eviscerate you–you have about ten seconds to run.”

My mother wouldn’t give you my weaknesses for the world because she is human body armor and she is not going to give you any kind of shot at my self-esteem, my self-confidence, or my heart. She will not give you my vulnerabilities.

And when it comes to my weaknesses, her expectations of strengthening have always been clear. Get it done. But when my weaknesses were more than I could manage, she stepped in and helped me sandbag the levies, so the rest of me wouldn’t drown.

Don’t you dare point out the sandbags, though, or she’ll throw one right through your head. Because I am hers. My faults and shortcomings are hers to manage. She feels this way to this day, and I expect she will until her dying day.

That’s how I grew up.

I feel that way about Thor. I won’t take the skin off your face for pointing out an area of opportunity, but I will record it, and I will remember it. And you would be wise to only speak of faults because you have ideas to help him shore up his weak areas. I am not the hair trigger my mother is, but the end result will be exactly the same. I might not kill you, but you will be dead to me.

I am responsible for that child. I am responsible for building and growing that human being. Where he is weak, it is my responsibility to be his personal trainer and get him strong. If he has an actual deficiency, then it is my job to be his engineer and architect, and help him build bridges. Where he excels, it is my job to coach him into self-disciplined success. And overall, it is my job to be this child’s most vocal, most loyal, most dedicated cheerleader.

I am like my mother. I will not give you his vulnerabilities. I will not give you his weaknesses. I am his advocate, and his ally. He and I will always be honest about what it is going to take for him to become a contributing member of this society, but just like my mother would never tell you about my unfortunate incarceration (and she is not pleased that I tell so much on myself), I will never offer up Thor’s embarrassments for anyone else’s entertainment, or downplay his successes for social modesty.

Anyway, I’ve got nothing to be modest about. Thor is AWESOME.

I called my mom and tried to read this to her. Of course I started choking up halfway through. Thing is, I know how fortunate I am. My mom had very high expectations of me privately, but even when I wasn’t living up to them, publicly she was always the Grand Marshal of the Lane Parade. That woman loves me.

I managed to finish and squeaked out, “I just wanted you to hear that.” And my mom said, “Thank you so much. You get it. You understand.” Then I had to go so I could clean off my face.

If Thor grows up to feel half as loved as I have always known I am, then I’ve done something right. And I think he will. I think he is very confident in how much he is loved, trusted, and wanted.

Now I want to go pick him up, hold his wee, little head, and hug him until he squawks at me to let go. …and I’m crying again.

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