I am noticing a pattern with my mid-life friends. They are afraid of their adult children. Not in a way where they think they are in danger, or threatened ... not a Dr. Phil episode where the Mom has video tape of her child running rampant through the house, screaming obscenities at her parents. No, these women are afraid of offending their adult children and then, well, who knows what might happen?
My observance of this began recently when I was discussing daughters at the gym with my "Mom" friends. One friend was struggling with her daughter's decision to take a break from college. Her daughter was still quite the productive citizen. She had a job, was starting a second job in the city and was "finding herself".
This daughter was the product of kind and loving parents. She had an exceptional education and was an exceptional student. She had expressed the desire to perhaps go to medical school one day. So these current decisions seemed extremely out of place and caused her parents much consternation. Her new life at home as a retail worker and waitress was disturbing to her parents. They felt like failures. But, of course, they are still great parents. There is no shame in giving your daughter time to sort her life out. In fact, it may be the most admirable trait in a parent in the success-obsessive society we have created with this generation.
But this is new territory. We are all navigating new territory as parents all the time. My second child got the best of my experience. I was never the Mom of a toddler until the first time. I was never the Mom of a teen, before my first teen. I was never the Mom of adult daughters until now, as are all my friends.
So, for example, when this brilliant daughter of my friend sleeps until the afternoon, her hard-working parents are appalled. This seems lazy, unproductive and a slippery slope to the wrong path. But they are far too afraid to say anything to their daughter. She is working, and truth be told, she, herself, is a bit distraught about this new path of discovery she has chosen, even though she is not ready to give it up. And so, as her parents, well, they don't want to upset her too much. She might, I don't know ... not like them, she might get mad at them ... she might say testy things and slam a door ... oh my god, she might hate them, even for just a moment.
In some ways is this not new territory? Didn't we navigate this when they were toddlers, middle schoolers, teenagers? Didn't we learn that we had a job to do and figure something out back then?
This is where I see the pattern. Another friend was describing how her daughter wanted to move out, but it was just not possible, financially or even from a maturity standpoint. But the Mom was just not up for the confrontation. Really? Since when did the magical age of 18, 20, 23, 26, or even 30 exempt these young adults from being told they are not acting appropriately. They are being disrespectful. Or they are behaving in a way where they need some guidance, some mentoring and maybe even saving from their own stupidity. Isn't that what we're supposed to do? Isn't that what we've been doing since they were born? Isn't that the very definition of Mom?
And I am not immune. My daughter is getting married. I committed the worst crime a mother of the bride can do. I shared some possible wedding gown pictures with my friends. I have no defense. I'm a jerk. And my daughter called me out. Her threats of future punishment were short-lived. But I was afraid. Afraid of her wrath. And then I realized, I do that a bit too much. I let my daughters bully me into being nice when I don't want to.
Another friend of mine was worried that her daughter would be mad if she took over power washing the old beat up porch on her daughter's new house, because that wasn't on the list of projects that day. What? What are we doing?
Now that we have raised smart, capable women, now we act like they know everything and we taught them nothing? Now we act like we have nothing else to teach them? No, I don't think so.
I am reclaiming my motherhood. I am your mother. I am your mother, goddammit, and I still have rights and obligations. I have the right to be respected. I have the obligation to admit and apologize when I am wrong. I have the right to tell you when you're wrong. I have the right to keep being your mother, to give you advice, to give you guidance and to try and help you even when you think you don't need it. Sometimes, I have the obligation to mind my own business as you are now an adult. But if I think it's dangerous or unhealthy for you, I'm going to tell you. And I will not be afraid. I have the right not to be afraid of you. And you have the obligation to take it. After all, I'm your mother. Behave.