I gave birth to my daughter.
I know I did. I have proof, I have pictures!
I remember how seriously I took becoming a mom.
I tried to be so good, with the most advanced black and white hanging thingies in the bedroom (because I read that babies can’t see colors), Mozart playing all the time, breast feeding led to special goopy baby foods, great schools, museum trips, lots of enriching activities, college, etc.
And, if you agree with this definition from childdevelopment.com “The proper role of the parent is to provide encouragement, support, and access to activities that enable the child to master key developmental tasks. As the child matures and develops mastery the scaffolding is removed or changed to allow the child to become more independent”, the illusion is that I am the “parent”.
My Daughter Speaks Up
At 24, she is smart, artistic, sensitive and because of Co-vid stuck at home with myself, my husband and our younger son. The trajectory these kids (and really all of us) were on stopped abruptly and now here we are.
So, my daughter and I are in the kitchen… and I am just passing through… literally not stopping… on my way to another room (can you believe, that’s a big day? walking to another room? But I digress) and I happen to ask her to do something… I don’t even remember what it is. She says something that is a verbal “eye roll”.
Well, THEN I stop and say, “You know, these times will not last forever. Someday, you will look back and remember this and possibly even miss these moments. If we look at it this way, we can see things with gratitude.” I feel pretty good that I stopped and could impart this little gem of wisdom to my child… because I am the parent and I know stuff and I like to share it.
I start to go. My daughter says, “Why do you do that?”
Huh? I’m the parent… and I know things… and I want to share them… yet, she continues.
“Of course I’m grateful, Mom. I also have lots of emotions right now. So many things are going on between working from home and being here and only really seeing friends online. I think when I dismissed doing what you asked, I was really expressing frustration and maybe loneliness.”
A Shift In Perception
What’s happening? I’m taken aback. I begin to think I should have kept going to the other room.
She continues. “Do I not show you I am grateful?”
“… you do…”
“Ok. Then, if you could not always look for the silver lining and instead let me feel what I’m feeling and perhaps even help me get to the root of the feelings…that would be great. So, Mom, really… Why do you think you turn it around to something “good” (she did the air quotes thing) as opposed to sitting with the uncomfortable feelings?”
I feel that familiar lump forming in my throat. I sit down. “Um.” Tears well in my eyes. “Ummm…”
She sits near me. “What’s going on for you, Mom?”
She looks so gentle and beautiful and kind. I swallow hard, “I guess because when my dad died so suddenly when I was young, I couldn’t deal with it, so I looked for a silver lining. I turned it around because if I didn’t I was afraid I’d collapse. I guess I’m built that way now.” I was surprised all this came out.
“I get it.” she says, “I’m not built that way. So maybe we can see that we are different and need different things. Maybe you could ask me questions and explore my feelings and when you are sad I can help you see it another way.”
I totally understand what she is showing me.
So today, when something goes awry at work for her… guess what? I ask her about it, I’m curious, I dig deeper and see what is going on.
It feels a little odd, like I’m not on solid ground, I take a small step off the the beaten path… I try. And more importantly, I see a glimpse beyond the illusion… I can continue to learn from, well, everyone. I can be a “child” in the world.
By ALISON MARTIN
Alison Martin -- wife, mom, Emmy-award winning actress, writer, chocoholic. Bronx Italian, daughter of Pultizer Prize winning reporters, who also identifies as L.A. Irish. Shout outs: Dan, Em, Brady, pooches - LuLu & Ted, friends, Mother Earth, serendipity, peace, VIPHS, living life like your socks feel real good.
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