Mother's Day . . . yahoo . . .

I’m not answering questions today.  Just thought I’d ramble.  Here in the States, we are celebrating our mothers today with a Hallmark-inspired day known as Mother’s Day.  While it is a wonderful and delightful day for some of you, for most, it is a day filled with mixed emotions and pitfalls.  No person in this world (except, perhaps, our new president) is infused with more hope or expectation.  These expectations are easy to fulfill when the kids are young.  Parents, in general, are GODS to the young kids.  The bringer of all good things.  Even if you mess up big-time, the capacity for young children to forgive is quite extraordinary (and a good example for the rest of us).  As the kids get older however, they get increasingly critical of you and everything that you do.  They look for and pounce on inconsistencies and errors.  There is a certain glee that comes to an adolescent’s eye when they ‘catch’ mom in a contradiction.  When mom is less than available.  Less than prophetic.  Less than saintly.  As adolescents become more aware of themselves and their own difficulties in dealing with peers, responsibilities and expectations, it is far easier to look for a cause outside of themselves rather than taking an honest assessment, forgiving yourself, and moving forward.

If my life is a mess . . . it must be MOM’S FAULT!!!! 

“If only she was less annoying” . . . “if only she was smarter” . . . “if only she would leave me alone” . . . “if only she would trust me more” . . . 

For moms, it is a catch-22.  If you do those things that you know in your heart are best for your kid, there is a good chance that your gonna catch some heat for it.  In my experience (both in my house and in my practice), it has NOTHING to do with what is said.  I can give the same message to my teenagers and it will be viewed as supportive, helpful, reasonable, etc.  My wife says it and it is . . . nagging . . . not-understanding . . . unreasonable . . .

And I have GOOD kids.

Looking back on my own childhood growing up with two older brothers provides me with some insights and perspective.  Mom was a professional woman at a time when that was rare.  That just meant that she worked long hours (always brought home work to do) and still had to be a June Cleaver and make sure dinner was on the table, the house was clean, the laundry was done.  My dad didn’t lift a finger.  And we boys were unruly and difficult to train.  I learned from my oldest brother who approached my mom with a salt and vinegar attitude and was in a constant state of tension with her.  What I learned . . . was to run under the radar and be nicer.  To this day, I will still hear about how difficult mom was (although he will now admit how difficult he was as well).  My experience of mom was different.  To me (my perception), she was kind and reasonable.  I think it had to do with me being kind and reasonable to her.

Did I make sure that I showed her how much I cared on Mother’s Day.


Not till I grew up.

I have watched my oldest daughter’s attitude change toward my wife as she has moved from the difficult and rebellious teen that she was (and MAN was she difficult) to being a wife and mother with all the stress that that brings.  She has a new found appreciation for my wife and calls her frequently to touch base and to get advice.  Not that she takes it, mind you . . . but she does call and ask.  It’s a start.  And even tho’ my brothers and I went through a long period where we did not keep in contact with mom very often, as we got older and had our own families, we were able to see her in a different light.  We were able to see that life is full of so many difficulties, so many difficult decisions to be made, that it is impossible to please young people with any regularity.  As we got older . . . and our kids got older . . . mom did become the valued matriarch.  We were able to give her the respect she so richly deserved.  When she passed away, I am sure she knew that she was respected, appreciated and loved.  But it took time.  Years.  My wife’s mother died when my wife was 19.  And the relationship that her mom had with all of the kids became frozen.  There was no chance to move forward.  To heal wounds and find that common ground.  My wife has been able to do this.  Despite her mother’s various difficulties and ailments (and from her description my mother-in-law was a difficult person in many ways), my wife has developed a good perspective and can forgive and love her mother.  Not all of the siblings have been able to do this.  Some are still very angry and negative.  

And for what purpose?

My best wishes go out to my wife and to all mothers out there.  You have a difficult job with great rewards in the end.  The road will be difficult and long.  Be patient with your kids . . . and patient with yourself.  Give yourself the extra dose of forgiveness and understanding that your kids may not be giving to you right now.  Know that success as a parent is not measured by perfection, but in doing a better job than your parents did for you.  Take the best that your parents had to offer you and pass it along.  Try not to pass along the mistakes.  And teach your kids to forgive.  To forgive you.  To forgive themselves.  To allow their “human-ness” not to get in the way of expressing love, thanks and appreciation.  Someday . . . they, too, will be old enough to have their own kids.  Someday . . . they will understand.

–Dan Hartman, MD

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