|Print | Back||July 4, 2012|
Raising the Rising GenerationThe Mother's Curse
by Emily S. Jorgensen
"I hope you have a child just like you someday." So goes the universal Mother's Curse. An incantation often uttered at times of great frustration with offspring, it is the only revenge mothers can feel truly justified about calling down on their children.
When I first heard of the Mother's Curse as a teenager, I thought, "Hey, that would be great. I hope I do have a child just like me some day. I'm not so bad. Plus, then it would take all the guesswork out of parenting. I would know just what to do with that child."
Yeah, go ahead and laugh.
I was my mother's first child. She and I are very different. We look different, we express ourselves differently, and we see the world differently. Our approaches to life's challenges are often diametrically opposed.
I know I was a complete mystery to her as I grew up. I am sure nothing I did made sense, and I know she had to use her patient voice with me quite a lot.
Likewise, few things that she did made sense to me. Unable to see things from her point of view until I matured into adulthood, I was angry about several perceived injustices along the way.
Now, as I look at her from the lens of a fellow parent, I have more compassion for her. There are still things that I really wish she had done differently, ways I wish she had understood or supported me, but I accept her for who she is.
When my first child was born, a daughter, I was thrilled -- still am. Oh, I was going to do for her that which had not been done for me. I would understand her, I would give her the kind of emotional support I wish I had had. You know the drill.
And really, I have done a pretty good job, I think.
However, now that she is growing into her own self (she is nine years old), I find myself facing an uncomfortable truth. She is not like me.
She's a lot like … my mother.
I suppose this is the universe's way of balancing my arrogance. I am still fairly certain I would handle a child like me with finesse and alacrity. So, of course, I have to do something completely different.
I have to try to understand my daughter. I have to accept her for who she is. I have to love her with the charity of God rather than the love of self -- of narcissism.
It can be difficult to see our children as fellow children of God, rather than something we have produced and therefore have the right to claim.
Thinking of our children as extensions of ourselves instead of who they are can be extremely destructive to our relationship with them, and to their overall development. Thinking of them as a reflection of ourselves seems like a selfish way to view them.
When our children make mistakes, do we take it personally -- as a judgment that we have failed? Or do we recognize they are their own persons with the right to learn and grow from their mistakes?
Yes, it is our job to train them, guide them, teach them, to be an example. But at some point, we have to recognize they will do what they will do. They will go out for softball, not for soccer, which we excelled at in high school. They will learn the flute, not the trumpet like us.
Or, maybe, they will learn the flute instead of playing soccer! They will be a vegetarian and totally reject our Saturday BBQ tradition. They may even decide the Church is not for them.
Though my mother and I are very different, I appreciate that she let me be different from her. I may have surprised and even baffled her at times, but in the end I owe a great deal of my life's success to her because she let me be me. That seems more like a mother's blessing than a mother's curse.
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