August 31st, 2007

Lessons I learned from my mom, Part I...

Letting go

(I started thinking about this after a friend asked this question on Verla's, so now I have all these ideas -- enough for a series, I think! Aren't you all lucky? Tee-hee.)

My mom is one of the wisest women I know (my dad is one of the wisest men I know, so I'm doubly blessed, I'd say). Anyway, as I grew up (and still to this day), I gained quite a bit from the tidbits she'd share with me. One of the first dealt with letting your children go, letting them grow up.

I first saw this in action when my brother fell in love. My mom and brother had an especially close bond, and when he found the woman he wante to marry, my mom had to deliberately take a step back (or two or three). She's a firm believer in cutting those apron strings, and she did it. By the time I got married (about nine years later), she was an expert ;) She says that parenthood is really a lesson in loving enough to say good-bye and allow your children to move on to their own lives.

An example of the opposite:

There was a couple, whom I'll call Jon and Kristy. They'd known each other most of their lives, and their parents were best friends. When they got married, it was as if the universe said, "At last." It was the ultimate fairy tale -- the beautiful bride, the handsome groom, the jubilant parents. There were many problems with that marriage from the get-go (including Jon's age of barely 21; Kristy was almost 23). But I think they might have made it regardless if it hadn't been for the interference of the MILs. I have to admit a bias here: I'd been friends with Jon for years, and he was almost like a brother to me. I never liked Kristy, or her mom. But Jon's mom was just as bad, from what I heard.

Kristy's mom convinced her that Jon should be earning the majority of the income for the family, so that Kristy could get pregnant and stay home. But Jon was hoping to get his pilot's license, and that involves hours of training. So he had a minimum wage job that allowed him enough off-hours to fly. Kristy knew this before they married, but somehow, after the fact, she couldn't accept it any longer. She picked and picked (with her mom's constant input on how Jon wasn't fulfilling his role as the husband, the head of the family) -- and Jon's mom jumped in on the defensive. Soon it was all-out war -- and within a year, the two were divorced. The bond between the families was forever destroyed, and Jon's parents actually moved to another state.

Approximately six months after the divorce was final, Kristy was remarried and pregnant...to a man who made all the money. Her mom was happy, pleased that her 'advice' was sound. (Yes, as you may have gathered, I got much of this information from the MIL, herself). Last I heard, which was maybe seven years ago, Jon was still single. Now a pilot of a commercial airline, he lived alone in Chicago, where that airline was centered. I hope things have changed for him since then -- hope he's found a woman who loves him and who won't allow her parents' opinions (or her friends', for that matter) interfere with that love.

But the lesson for me was definitely a strong one. All this happened years before I even began to date my husband -- but seeing the destruction that those two women created has stayed with me. (Granted, I'm not saying Jon and Kristy didn't have their part, but there's no doubt that the MILs fueled every spark, and even lit the matches a few times.)

I'm sure my mom had reservations when I started dating my husband. He's very different from any of the boys I'd shown interest in up to that point -- very different. But she kept her mouth shut, and she said nothing about her own feelings. The closest she got to 'butting in' was this: she told me that she wanted me to be happy, nothing more, nothing less. But she added that true joy often involves periods of intense unhappiness -- and that she was willing to stand back and let God work His way, no matter how hard it was.

I don't like advice (sigh), and I don't receive it very well, I'm afraid. My mom has learned the trick of giving advice by her actions, her life. So when she let my brother go, when she let me go, that stayed with me -- and I hope I'll do the same for my children someday!

Stay tuned for Part II, All Marriages Have Problems.

Oh, and I'd love to hear advice (spoken or lived) from your moms that stayed with you, whether because of negative or positive impact!
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