Recently, I found myself telling a friend that I agreed with his post but did not comment for fear of reprisal. Were those words really coming out of my mouth? Where did I get the filter to not comment? And since when did I care about reprisal?
At first blush, I think I was just tired. I have worn the tiara of ‘crazy’ for years. Not in the take-medication-and-lock-your-self-up kind of way, but in the way it happens when you are a mother in suburbia who dares to step outside of the ‘norm’. In my suburbia that meant letting my kids stay home alone and telling the school when something seemed awry. These actions are ‘crazy’ because the norm here is to hire a babysitter until your child is 13 or 14 (seriously) or do their laundry until they just can’t carry it all home from college. Noting a misbehaved teacher means your child is ‘marked’ (and only a foolish parent would draw attention to their child that way).
The kids have survived being left home alone and being ‘marked’ and rarely are in need of my defense or support in such direct ways anymore. So now I am wondering, was I able to be so bold only when I was fighting for them? Am I becoming cautious when the expression of my opinion is simply ‘for me’? It seemed so much easier when it was ‘for the kids’.
In light of the above, I responded to a rather controversial editorial in a trade publication. I supported the editor because I believed his argument was fair, despite knowing that the emotional nature of the issue would make it too difficult for most readers to even hear his logic, instead judging his audacity to look beyond the emotion.
I wrote, deleted. Wrote. Deleted. And then took a big breath and wrote until I finished saying what I wanted to say. Even though I wrote anonymously, I could feel myself shoring up for accusations. Did I care that complete strangers might bash me for taking an unpopular point of view? It was only moments before I found the answer. Imagine my surprise when I read “Does SH(how I identified myself) stand for SH…T head?” and instead of cringing, I laughed.
I can’t hide behind my kids anymore. It’s time for me. And time for me to be BOLD. I have opinions and they can be shared. Maybe they will enlighten someone. Maybe that someone will be me.
So this is us on our last ‘mandated’ family vacation. Ben heads off to college in August. Unless the money fairy miraculously visits us
and we are able to squeeze in a summer getaway within the next 3 months, every trip after this one will be because Ben has been ‘invited’ and he ‘wants’ to come with us. The following year Jacqui will join the ‘invitation’ ranks and then the true test of whether or not spending time with us is appealing will come into play.
To be fair, we most often ask their opinion before planning a vacation and they both say ‘yes’. This trip included. To be extra fair, if either were to say ‘no’ we all know I have the ultimate veto power if I believe it’s important enough. Of course the common question in these situations is “Important to who, Mom?”. OK, so I have the mother gene that says “It’s important to me so I want it to be important to you.” I try really hard to fight that urge. But sometimes it is just what a mother has to do.
Is there something wrong with feeling a little family obligation? After all, there is always going to be something shinier out there. And if you won’t do what is ‘right’ for your family, will you do it for your friends? Will you do it for your children when you have them? For your spouse? We can laugh about my control issues around family time, but this is a serious matter. And a really tough balancing act.
Jeff and I have a phrase we use when we have to attend a function or social gathering that is important to one of us but feels like a poke in the eye with sharp needles to the other. We call it ‘because you love me’. It works well. We both acknowledge the pain we are putting the other through in order to satisfy our (insert rational or irrational feeling of the moment……’I don’t want to be seen alone’…….’My boss expects you to be there’………’He’s one of my best friends, I’m sorry his wife is a complete lunatic’….you get the idea). And yet we each put ourselves, with a smile, through the pain trusting that the other would not ask if ‘going it alone’ was an acceptable solution. We don’t question the other’s motives. We just go and make the best of it.
I want my kids to have that same level of trust and understanding. I don’t want to ask them to attend something ‘just because’. I want us all to want to be there. As a mother I get to direct that for a while. My ‘while’ just ended with one of my children and is about to end with the other. Let’s hope I taught them well. Let’s hope we are ‘shiny’ enough that going on a vacation with us, ‘the parents’, will still be fun when the choice really is their’s to make. Let’s hope that when they make an alternative choice I am proud that they are able to make their own choices and we will have fun anyway. Maybe they will join us the next time.