How often do we say or do something and realize in that moment that we sound just like our mothers? I continue to purchase the same dishwasher liquid, Cascade, that my mother used when I was a kid. I don’t even think twice about not using that brand. Scary. I hear things come out of my mouth and recognize I have been repeating that phrase of hers, for decades. We make an impression on our kids that lasts, forever.
Raising children, is not easy. I have yet to meet anyone who says it is. There are lots of joy, but also bouts of second guessing and the intense desire to protect them from feeling pain or getting hurt. I may have been over protective, something carried over from my upbringing. I am sure there will be behaviors my kids will project onto their kids, when they become parents.
I now have two young men. I remember when the relationship shifted as they left childhood behind, and entered their teen years. They didn’t need me as much anymore, I wasn’t the center of their world. Their friends become more important and so did their dad. They relied less and less on me, except for money and rides. I would cheer for them at sports events, clean their endless supply of laundry, and watch with awe, as they grew. I went through the motions of motherhood out of love, and hoped that my efforts would stay with them as they went about their lives. How would they remember these years? What sort of impression was I making on them?
This got me thinking. What did I get from my mother? I have a strong-willed, tough-as-nails, Irish Catholic, Boston-born and raised, mother. She had several jobs outside the house and owned her own company. She was a no-nonsense, get it done, kind of gal. They don’t come any tougher.
What she said over the years stuck to me. So, did many of her reactions and how she handled situations, also remained. I know I get some of her toughness, but I also get other behaviors too. Good and bad, they’re in there. If she notices a reaction in me, like how she would react, she would say; “What comes by nature costs no money.” Ain’t that the truth.
She taught me about her love of antiques, gardening and hard work. They are now my passions too. Just this week I offered my oldest son, a china cabinet that I have used since I was first married and was also used by my mother. I fully expected to put the old piece of furniture out on the curb, instead I was pleasantly surprised he wanted it. He said, he likes to hold onto family mementos. He grew up looking at it and it reminds him of his childhood. He says he’s gaining an appreciation for antiques. This made me smile.
I hope I have passed along to my children some of the other things that I hold dear: family, love for the Lord and living a meaningful life. So far, I can see they enjoy the lives they have started to create for themselves, this makes me happy.
While it has been a hard job, it has been rewarding. Passing along the china cabinet is proof of that. As I step back and look at them through a different lens, I do see a glimmer here and there of me and their dad. They have taken a version of us, the impression we made on them, and made it their own. As I reflect on the mothering I received, I have taken what was served to me, and used what I could, while shedding what I don’t need and leaving it behind. I have learned to appreciate all of it, even the painful stuff, it makes us who we are and my hope is that they come to this conclusion as well.