Not All Parenting Is Created Equal
Moms will often say something to their child and then exclaim – “Oh my gosh, I sound just like my mother!”
My kids are 17 and 15, and I don't think I've ever said that. As horrible as this may sound, I have made a conscious decision not to raise my children as my parents raised me and my older brother.
No, I did not grow up to be a dreg of society, but instead of instilling important life lessons and love, my parents unknowingly left me needing years of therapy. It was my husband who showed me by example how to be considerate and generous, to have good morals and values, and to be a good person.
So herein lies the rub. As I approach 50, I find myself "parenting” my mother as she ages; giving her guidance and assistance to help navigate her later years. (My father died two years ago.) However, when you grow up in a dysfunctional home, it's hard to feel good about helping the people who caused you decades of pain. Clearing mental hurdles and giving myself pep talks has been necessary. Okay, my parents didn't teach me compassion, kindness, the ability to strive for goals, or fill in the blank, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't do my best to help take care of them now. Okay, I got this.
I think we all have some kind of baggage from our childhood; some more than others. Unless there was some kind of abuse going on though, it feels wrong to turn your back on the two people who did the best they could with you.
My parents were dysfunctional. My father was a stubborn, hot-head who, in his mind, never did anything wrong and was never wrong about anything. Getting him mad was deemed an intentional act to piss him off. Not exactly a parenting or personality style one wants to emulate.
My mother was not a good, strong, female role model for me. She would stand up to my dad to a point, then throw her hands up and give in. She sat back and passively let life happen to her, without putting anything out there. She lacked warmth and fuzziness, and there was no closeness in our home. Again, not the parenting I want to imitate with my own children.
Buying birthday or Mother's Day cards (or cards for my dad when he was alive) has always been an interesting event. Typically, when I buy a serious card for someone, I try to find one that really expresses my feelings for them. When shopping for a card for my mom, it’s difficult to find one that expresses exactly how I feel...
Thank you for everything you do for us. Nope.
You've always been there for me with support and wisdom. Absolutely not.
Your love and strength are the center of the family. God no!
Instead, I weed through the sincere cards to find the generic ones that say the basics - "happy birthday" or "happy Mother's Day. Hope you have a wonderful day." Those are the most honest feelings I can summon.
I'm pretty sure my brother's wife gives the same basic cards from her and my brother. I wonder if it ever occurred to my mom, after all these years, that she doesn’t receive the warm, fuzzy, sentimental cards from us. I'm not sure that would even fly onto her radar.
Despite my feelings, I do help my mom and she appreciates it. Do I roll my eyes when I see her name on the caller ID? Yes. Does it drive me a little nuts that she can barely work a flip phone and can't text, which would make our communication so much easier? Yes. But I answer the phone, try to listen patiently, and assist her when needed, even if I don't feel like it. My husband has taught me it's the right thing to do. I don't want the dysfunctional cycle of my childhood to continue, so I engage in loving and encouraging behaviors within my home. I know my children are observing me, just as I watched my own parents.
While I'm sure my husband and I are making “mistakes” with our kids, I'd like to think they feel loved and supported, and are witness to true love and good communication between two parents. I hope they grow up feeling they had a “good” childhood and seek to pass on what they learned and saw in their own home. And yes, I hope they continue to buy or write me meaningful cards on those special occasions.
About the Author ~
Ronni is a graying, barely-holding-it-together, lunch meat sandwiched between two teenagers and two elderly mothers. She’s a 3-time full Ironman finisher, and finds triathlons to be less exhausting than dealing with her kids, mom and mother-in-law. She has been happily married for 20 years and gets her AARP card in 2018. Ronni's life story includes a 14-year freelance writing career, and she is currently dusting off her blog. You can find more Ronni at: