Upon going through a drawer of keepsakes and memories, I stumbled upon a realization…
The Generation Age Gap Problem
As young mothers, we had no concept that the generation gap was a natural and contributing factor to disagreements and disconnects between mothers and their daughters. But, think about it. Recall these words, “You are so old fashion, mom.”
Don’t you recall occasionally saying those words to your mom? I do. And, I remember my girls saying those words to me. It was not until years after my daughters lost their father and I remarried that it dawned on me that a twenty-year age gap contributed to a serious disconnect with my daughters. And, though it was unintentional, it did not matter. It was my fault.
A Big Bright Light
One day three or four years ago during a phone call with my willful daughter a huge bright light bulb went off… My daughters though married with their own children would always see themselves as children. My daughters would always want and need me, no matter their age. Before the light bulb went off I saw them as mature adult women with husbands and children of their own. Of course, I understood that they wanted me when they wanted me. But, I did not truly connect how much my daughters wanted, needed, and missed me to the point of being angry.
In my eyes, they were mature and lovely young women but in their eyes and I think in your children’s eyes, our children will always see themselves as children. Today, I see myself as my mother’s child. And, to take this a step further when my friends ask me, “How is your mom?”, my answer is always the same. “She is fine but I am sad because I can’t share my life, my questions, or my need for her because of her memory loss.” And, darling, I am a grandmother.
I raised two daughters as different as night and day. One thinks before she speaks (usually) and the other does things before she thinks. One talks when she has something to say and the other can be very hurtful and willful. Neither is boring. One told me Norman (a young house guest) was growing marijuana on our roof; the other let him do it. You can guess which did what! But neither held back when they were upset with me.
My Memory Drawer
Two weeks ago, I decided to organize one of my memory drawers. It was the one filled with notes, letters, and cards from my daughters and grands. On a particularly rainy morning, I decided to peek inside. I re-read every note, letter, and card from my grandchildren and daughters. I went into pleasant shock as I re-read the cards, letters, and notes written to me over several years by my willful daughter. There were far more from her than from my other daughter and every note, card, and letter (except for one), was filled with love and respect. She was giving me messages.
My Biggest Mistake
I know the biggest mistake I made raising my daughters was in not understanding that they would always, no matter their age, see themselves as ‘children’ in need of their mother. Even though they were mothers and wives. I saw them as lovely young women who were given their roots and then their wings. Of course, I loved them and tried to continue to share and spend time with them but they became distant after I remarried.
They missed me and I was torn between my love for them and my new husband. My mother had taught me to always put one’s husband first because children grow up and leave the nest. She was right and she was wrong. Nothing is in stone. It depends on each situation.
A Home That Was Never Boring
Our little family of four were tied to one another during the girls growing up years and until their father’s sudden death and my remarriage. We were very relatable parents and we had fun.
My willful daughter and I shared our love of animals and nature and my quiet daughter and I shared our love of the arts and quiet times. They were devoted to their father. There was the normal and even abnormal stuff. For instance, when my willful daughter made an appointment for me to see a shrink (because I gave her a curfew) and on another occasion ran away from home but called to tell me where she was so I would not worry!
And then of course there was Norman growing weed on the roof. And, at high school graduation, a boy in my willful daughter’s class stopped in shock to chat when he saw her in her cap and gown, “I didn’t know you went to school here. I thought you were the substitute teacher!”
Then there was a time when my willful daughter saved my life after surgery. Nothing was ever boring in our home and we were a very close foursome.
A Child is a Child All of Their Lives
After my daughters lost their father our family was never the same. Nor can anyone’s family, especially when a mother remarries and he has his and she has hers. And, this can all fare fairly well when a mother is wise enough to understand that no matter her children’s or his children’s age they will always think of themselves as the child in the family, depending on parents and grandparents to be there for them, always.
Back to My Memory Drawer
I closed the memory drawer two-plus hours later. Every significant memento was compartmentalized. Closing the drawer I was reminded of the tête-à-tête between my willful daughter and myself. It was the light bulb conversation. It took place three or four years ago. We were both wives and mothers, on equal footing.
The Taxi Cab Story
My phone rang. It was my willful daughter.
I said, “I’m happy to hear your voice. I haven’t seen you in a while and I miss you.”
In a very calm voice, my daughter responds, “Well I don’t know why you are complaining, mom. You travel and spend the winter in California.”
I ask myself, “Where did this come from?”
Though I wanted to immediately reply and defend myself, I pause and bite my tongue because I know the intensity of this mother-daughter relationship. We hung up with a cool good-bye.
The Powerful Light Bulb Message
I wondered to myself what was the cause of the explosion and then I realized: she misses me when I am away and is really giving me a left-handed compliment. She is also telling me to stick around.
The following day I grabbed a cab to meet a friend for lunch and a lecture at the Arts Club. My phone rings and I see my daughter’s name. My heart begins to race. I don’t know what to expect.
“Mom, I am so sorry about yesterday. I had a lot on my mind.”
I sighed with relief and a smile spreads across my face. “Of course I understand. I am so happy you called. I love you so much.”
“Thank you for understanding mom. I love you so much, too.”
I always understood a child thinks of themselves as their mother’s child as long as they have a parent. I realize the intensity of the child-mother relationship but I thought it wained as a child reached adulthood. Never the love, but the dependence.
I was wrong because every relationship is special and different. I needed my mother’s love but I was independent. My daughters needed and need my unconditional love. No, they are not needy. It is the bond.
Do go through your memory drawer(s.) You never know what lesson, surprise, or joy you will find in the words of those who love you.
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