5.25.2011

Not My Mother's Daughter


When I opened up my email and read Mama Kat's Writing Prompts for this week, there was no doubt in my mind that I'd be participating. Prompt Number 2 jumped right out and stuck its tongue out at me. In fact, I think Mama Kat has been wandering around in my brain recently and stumbled upon that prompt, because it's been floating around there for quite some time now. I just haven't been able to make myself sit down and write it. But Mama Kat pulled it out, sat me down, and told me to get crackalacking.

So here I go.

2.) Not your mother's daughter...how do you parent differently than your mother did? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

I love my parents. My relationship with them is complicated. But I love them, and I know they love me. And as I have become a parent, and grown as a parent, I have experienced many different feelings towards their parenting. For the most part, I have made my peace with it and accepted that everything they did, they did the best way they knew how, and they did it out of love. They truly did want the best for their kids.

But their methods weren't always the best. And the one that I think impacted me the most, the one that I was so determined to do differently with my kids, is about communication.

{I don't mean not yelling. Puh-lease! They only listen when I yell!}
No, it goes a lot deeper than that.

When I was a teenager, I couldn't talk to my parents about anything. I deeply felt the generation gap. They just weren't the type of parents that sat down with me after school and listened to me talk about my day. My mom knew who some of my friends were, but not who was dating who or which friend was mad at the other one. But more than that, I couldn't come to them with the big things. When I was scared, worried, or heartbroken, talking to my parents was the last thing I thought of doing. They expected me to do exactly what they wanted me to do without question, and if I didn't, they flipped out. My teenage years were full of secrets and lies. They were so strict and kept me on such a tight leash, that I sometimes lied about where I was going, because I knew they wouldn't let me otherwise. Not even when it was a reasonable request and of course, all of my other friends' parents let them do it.

This inability to confide in my parents, this lack of communication, did more than strain our relationship, though. It caused me tremendous pain, and nearly cost me my life. There were several times when, as a teenager, I found myself in difficult situations. Nothing that many other teens haven't experienced in the past, and will experience for the rest of time. But I could not talk to my parents about these things. I simply, absolutely, could not. And several times, I felt like my only options were to run away from home, or to kill myself. This was not the dramatic rantings of a hormonal teenager; this was the absolute terror of a teenager who felt like she had no way out of an impossible situation.

In the end, I was able to keep my secrets. There are so many things that happened to me that my parents know nothing about, and probably never will. It was hard to go through, but one thing came out of that experience: I vowed to never let that happen with my own children.

I feel like, if my kids ever feel the way I felt, it would be one of the worst parenting failures for me. I want to be the one they come to. Even though they know there will be consequences. Even though they know I may be upset. But they need to know I am there for them. My love is unconditional. I will support them and accept them. I will stand by them. I hope, and I pray, that they never, ever feel backed into a corner with no way out, they way I did. It's very hard to find a balance; I don't believe in being overly permissive. I want to keep them safe. I don't want to be their friend. It's not about being 'the cool mom'. It goes so much deeper than that.

So far, my kids are very open with me. I know they don't tell me everything, and I don't expect them to. I just want them to know that they CAN come to me, without fear of overreaction or judgement.

Do I always go about this the right way? Probably not. I don't have to tell you that parenting is tough and there is no instruction book. I have made mistakes in the past and I will make plenty more in the future. But I go about it with nothing but pure love for my children, and the deep desire for them to know that they can talk to me, especially about the important things. And the need for them to know that I will always have their back.

And that's a good thing.



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21 comments:

Amy said...

I was the same way. I never told my parents anything! I could have been standing in a dark alley with a knife at my throat and I would have gone anywhere by my folks. I wanted my kids to be able to talk to me about anything and (sometimes unfortunately) they do.

So, I guess even if I didn't do anything else right- I got that one right

Sara said...

Oh you are AWESOME!!!! Thanks SO Much for the follow!! I am following you back now and LOVE your blog! ;)

Helene said...

I can soooo relate to what you've written here. I never talked to my parents about anything...it was just too wierd and uncomfortable. And the one time my mom did end up finding out one of my secrets was only because she overheard me talking to my sister in the bathroom one morning. Of course she told my dad and they made me feel like complete shit...a total failure, which is exactly the reason why I didn't want them knowing.

Anyway, I totally get what you're saying and I'm the same way. I don't care what my kids have done....as horrible as they think it may be....I want them to always be able to come to me for help, advice, whatever they need and to know that I will love them unconditionally, no matter what.

June Freaking Cleaver said...

Your kids are luckier than most.

I always let my kids use the "my mom will kill me" card when their friends asked them to do something that wasn't a great idea...I provided their default excuse why they couldn't do the really bad things.

Lex the mom said...

I was in that very same boat, but my parents were kind of "hip", so the reasoning I have as an adult, well, it doesn't sit well with me. Okay, they were hippies...You'd think with all that free love, they'd have been able to be more open with their kids. For some odd reason, I think they were with my brothers. Could be just that teen warped perspective, though. I've made my peace, but I can definitely relate to the lack of communication.

It still sucks that you had to keep secrets & that you still have them.

Kudos to you for being able to put this out there. I couldn't do it. And it's better for us that we've left the doors open with our own kids.

Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

I, in the scheme of things, was blessed with really wonderful parents, even though, as you know (because I'm complaining incessantly because they are here now) my mom makes me a little crazy. What's funny, is that I was more likely to confide in her as a teenager... it's now that I want to maintain my privacy.... For example, my mom thinks I haven't had umm... you know... since my ex left 6 years ago and I'm TOTALLY okay with her thinking that! :) Oh LAWD I can't believe I just typed that... not erasing it... not erasing it...

Ms.Wasteland said...

Sounds like you and I had similar parents. I'm trying hard to change things with my kids, too. It isn't always easy but I hope they know that they can talk to me about anything and everything.

Tracy said...

I love this and feel the same way. My parents were super open and tons of my friends talked to my mom also as they could not go to theirs. :(

Diane said...

I didn't tell my mom a lot of things that I probably should have told her but not because she wouldn't have been understanding and supportive. I think I was just always afraid I'd disappoint her.
So I try to pay close attention and be aware when something is bothering one of my boys and try my best to get them to tell me.
Your kids are lucky to have you for a mom!

waytenmom said...

Thank you for sharing this -- it so often comes down to communication, doesn't it?

Cookie's Mom said...

We really do have a lot in common, you and I. I feel your frustration, and I feel the urgency in your voice. I also want to be there for my son when he needs to talk. Like you, I will not always have the answers, but I hope that my son will feel comfortable enough to come to me, knowing that I will help steer him in the right direction. I also believe in a network of support (that whole 'it takes a village to raise a child' philosophy), so I'll work to ensure that he has other adults in his life (besides his mama, who, frankly he may not always want to confide in) that he can go to in times of trouble.

Great post! Following you...

Georgia Girls said...

Oh, I totally understand this situation. I could never go to my parents when I needed them. I've opened the door to my kids that hopefully they'll use it if they need me. Thank you for stopping by. Great post!

Miss Marina Star said...

This was such an honest post. My parents and I have a complicated relationship as well. I still haven't made peace with my parent's parenting ways but you give me hope that it's actually possible.

Thank you for sharing.

Mry Jhnsn said...

This a great post and I can so relate, unfortunately...

New follower from Casual Blogger who happens to also participate in the Mama Kat workshop :)

Debby@Just Breathe said...

What a blessing your children have in you.

Paulette said...

Mine were super strict and not very much about the chatting. So, I get this, a lot!

Emily said...

The way we started our posts was eerily familiar!

One good we both learned is that we know we will NOT make the same mistakes our parents did. We are breaking the cycle.

Tammie said...

i read this last night and wanted to comment but my battery was dead.

anyhoo....my parents were the same way-very religious and very very strict. i was a great kid (i.e. obedient) but they were still incredibly unreasonable in regards to what i was allowed to do. it was so frustrating for me and after awhile i felt as if neither of them were on my side so i gave up talking to them. i dont want things to be the same way with my kids.

C said...

AWWW CYNDY, i could have written this very same exact post about my mom. plus a whole lot of more stuff on top of it. thank you for sharing, it shows me what a loving heart you have and that forgiveness can be given. i am not there yet.. but hopefully someday.

i parent differently as well, but in retrospect i still wish i could have done a few things differently.

Kat said...

It is so awesome that you have taken what was painful to you and changed it around so that what you have learned is a blessing to your kids. So many people just keep repeating the same cycle and nothing ever changes.

You rock!

Mrs4444 said...

We sure have a lot in common, from our pasts to our present, to our futures.

Doesn't it make you wonder, though; how easy it was for us to decide to parent differently. Why didn't it occur to our parents to do the same, I wonder. It's all water under the bridge, obviously, but I'll always be curious.