Mother’s Day is coming up and with it a mix of all kinds of emotions for me this year. In the past, I’ve always looked forward to celebrating my mom for the countless gifts she gave me over the years — life, curiosity, drive, high standards, etiquette, style, fashion, art, taste, love — and this year is no different. My mom is 88 and I’m blessed that she still walks the earth with me.
My mom and I on the Liberté, an ocean liner we took when we lived in Italy. I was 2.
BEING A MOM
In turn, for the past 26 years, I have been a mom to three children now 26, 24 and 21. I read all the books, took all the classes, sent them to programs for pottery, drawing, painting, ballet, hip hop, tap dance, volleyball, laCrosse, skiing, snowboarding, swimming, theater, trapeze, and gymnastics. They attended Hebrew school, Sunday school, and camp. As a family and individually we volunteered, hiked, adopted kittens, raised a Golden Retriever, nursed birds back to health, explored the world of insects (racing Madagascar cockroaches was a favorite activity coordinated by my father, the entomologist), traveled to Europe, South America, the Far East and the Middle East. I thought I knew what I was doing. I thought my husband and I were giving them a good life.
LOVE IS BLIND
Now, I see how blind I was.
Now, I struggle with letting go of everything I thought was true.
All the dreams I had for my kids, all the expectations, and any image of who they were to become.
Now, as one of my kids struggles with addiction I am forced to adjust my focus and see her with new eyes. See myself with new eyes. See the world with a sharpened vision. And in the process, I’m mourning. Gone is the little girl we knew, in her place is a girl in a young woman’s body who is trying to figure out who she is, what she wants, what she thinks and feels.
TOUGH LOVE, OR?
My role as a mom has come completely into question. Don’t suggest. Don‘t intervene. Don’t control. Step back, detach with love, and let her figure out who she is and wants to be — for her, not for me. When your kid is having problems, don’t try to fix, don’t try to make it all better, and don’t let them not experience the consequences of their actions.
I learned that lesson briefly when my son was a toddler and refused to keep his shoes on even when we were out and about in the city; even in the dead of winter. No amount of cajoling, arguing, demanding or threatening stopped him from removing his shoes. Finally, I got smart and in spite of his having taken his shoes off on the bus on a cold winter’s day, I let him experience the consequences of walking off the bus and on the sidewalk in his socks. Yes, I got stares and glares from people who passed us, probably thinking I was insane, but after a block of walking, he put his shoes back on and it was never a problem again. All it cost was a pair of socks and the will to not intervene.
At Al-Anon meetings, we parents talk about not recognizing our own children. Maybe it’s like Alzheimer’s — your loved one looks the same, but inside they are lost to you and themselves.
We talk about mourning the loss of the kids we once knew. Perhaps it is our own loss of innocence that we are experiencing. In the same way, that a child grows up and becomes painfully aware that life is not perfect, so too do we as parents come to grips with the reality that our kids, like us, are not perfect.
But it is hard to step back and let go, let your child be her own person and make choices that are different from what you would choose — for you, or for them. And where do you draw the line between parenting and detaching with love? When does co-dependency become a bad thing?
With all of these things on my mind, it’s been a challenging first quarter of 2016, and a good part of my reasoning for not being as engaged on social media and with my blog postings as before. So when an opportunity arose to travel to Israel and Jordan last month I welcomed the chance and the change. The trip, as you’ll read about soon, was transformative. It was uplifting and calming. It was spiritual and profound as we walked through history in some of the most spectacular places in the world.
In this new state of mind, I’m embracing acceptance. Raising my tolerance, lowering my expectations — of myself and of others. For someone who has always prided herself on having high standards, I’d like to think that I will continue to work at being a better person, both personally and professionally; perhaps just with a more compassionate outlook both inwardly and as I look out to all those who I am blessed to know.