My mom was the best. And she was doubly amazing for having raised me after my father died when I was 8. She devoted her very being to me. For that, I’m eternally grateful.
But, as with us all, there are a few things I hope to do differently when raising kids of my own. I’m probably doomed (or blessed) to repeat these things, which I see as mistakes but are probably in my genetic makeup:
1. Keeping Up Appearances
Mom was perpetually preoccupied with outward appearances, be it the state of the house or state of moods. She made Herculean efforts to present an “everything’s great” facade for the world. I just don’t feel like doing that.
For guests to come over, the house had to be immaculate. However, we tended to have dishes in the sink, papers on the dining room table, and clothes on my bedroom floor. It wasn’t embarrassing for me, but we didn’t host much. As for moods, I don’t need everyone to think I’m stupendous every single day. Occasional crankiness isn’t shameful. And family feuds are normal.
My kids don’t need to put up facades, or moreover, strive to impress others all the time. Just be real. It’s easier.
2. Don’t Get Dirty
Mom ingrained in me paranoia about getting dirty. I marveled at other kids who had no problem running through mud, rolling in leaves, or jumping in puddles. If I somehow marred my clothing, Mom chastised me.
When I was 6, during a soccer game, I came crying to her on the sideline because I slipped in the mud. I swear it’s because I didn’t want to get in trouble, not because I hated being dirty.
Kids grow out of clothes faster than wearing them out. So who cares if jeans go through an extra dozen washings? The immediate fun of play is more important than preserving that “new clothes” look. Puddles are meant to be jumped in, and leaves are meant to be rolled in.
3. Accidents Happen
My mom cried over spilled milk. Well, practically.
She hollered over spilled milk:
“You have to be careful!”
“Think about what you’re doing!”
“You have to pay attention!”
Now, I needed some reminders to pay attention and think before I acted. But I didn’t need to be told spilling milk was a “bad” thing.
And of course I didn’t intentionally break that bowl in the sink. And do you really think I deliberately lost my lunch money on the street on my way to school? And no, I didn’t spill the milk to create more work for you, Mom.
Accidents happen. Keep perspective.
4. Talk About Everything
Kids: Ask me anything. I promise to do my utmost to answer you honestly and calmly. There’s not much that shocks me.
I’ll give advice if you’re seeking that. And I promise just to say “that sucks” when that’s what you want to hear.
My mom was a problem-solver. Often, if I complained about another kid being mean or that I didn’t get a perfect grade on a test or that I was frustrated, her response was, “Well…what did you do? Did you say something to that kid first?” or “Didn’t you work hard enough?” or “You need to apply yourself!”
Often, especially as I got older, I just needed some empathy. Instead, she made me feel guilty. So I stopped sharing with her. I white-washed my life so that she wouldn’t worry or further criticize. She missed out on sharing a lot of my concerns. I really hope my kids don’t do that.
Again: my mom did a great job. Next time, I’ll list a few of the innumerable ways she set me for success. But complaining is so much easier, isn’t it?