Wednesday, November 05, 2014

In the genes?

I have been thinking a lot lately about my mom. She passed away 4.5 years ago after battling a rare form of cancer. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about her - but some days - like lately - more often than not the thoughts of her go by. I have been examining this in my head as I am routinely transported back to when I was about 8 years old in my recent thoughts of her.

8 years old. I turned 8 on January 8th in 1980. Eight was a pivotal time for me. I recall turning 8 and having a sudden increase in awareness of situations around me. Of relationships. And that they weren't always equal. Some were great and some were bad. I had a very good childhood, but my relationship with my mom from childhood until I graduated from college I would only classify as mediocre and was often difficult and painful. It was very good in the later half of my life, but that was due to work on both our parts.

For the most part since AB and I have had children we haven't worried a whole lot about screwing our kids up irreparably. Mistakes have been made, but for the most part I think we are in check. We have a laid back philosophy and it has worked for us.

Skadi is 7 going on 8 and this strikes fear in my heart as I recall 8 as being that time when I realized that my relationship with my mom was different then my sister's. My mom and sister had that special bond and I coveted it. I also remember seeing the disdain between my mom and my grandma.

I had a great relationship with my grandmother - and she lived a mile or so from us. She was heavily involved in our lives and my parents relied on my grandparents significantly as they were very young. I spent A LOT of time at my grandmother's as a kid. My mother had a great relationship with her grandmother. But I recall hearing about the generations of "mother daughter issues" going back to my great grandmother and my grandmother (and probably before that) in my family. And it wasn't just perceived, there were real issues between my mom and my grandmother and then myself and my mom. I almost felt as though it was just expected that there would be problems.

I have made a conscious decision recently that it's going to stop with me. This is why I keep mentally going back to me when I was 8. What went wrong? What can I change about the inherent way that I interact with my kids, specifically, my daughter?

My daughter has never heard about the hard relationship my mom that I had when I was a kid. How my grandmother was my savior (and how my mom's grandmother was her savior). How I used to see the eyerolls between my mom and her mom. And how my mom never recovered from her lack of relationship with her mom. My daughter will never hear these stories until she is an adult and capable of understanding that there is no need to live up to them. My daughter won't witness the difficulties - but that is not by my choice. Of course if I had my choice, my mom would be here and we would talk about and work through the issues together and my daughter would have that fabulous relationship with her grandmother as I had with mine and my mom had with hers. I suppose then, the fact that my mom is not here, I am sort of copping out by skipping in talking about it?  And will this harm my daughter in the long run not hearing about the difficulties? And then what if I fail and she, unlike me, never had access to the information to work through in her own head?

When I was in my early 20's my mother stepped out on the limb and apologized to me. Admitted that I was actually a pretty good kid, but that she couldn't (for some reason I never knew) see that. I knew she couldn't. Despite the fact that I got good grades, was quiet and didn't cause a lot of problems, I didn't tend to do a lot right in her view. I wasn't a great athlete, like she wanted. I didn't choose the activities she liked. I didn't have the right friends. But my mom apologized when I was in my early 20's and that saved us and made us friends from then on. We didn't often act in a mother-daughter manner, more as friends. It worked better that way.

I am combatting the inner demons that say I can't avoid a difficult mother daughter relationship. That it is in my blood. That it is every generation. We share the middle name and with that name brings a difficult mother-daughter relationship. But it is a battle I am willing to take with confidence that I will win.

My prescription:

Every single day I hug my kids. And for a long time I hold them to me. They know that they can just be held. Not the quick, polite hugs. We do long hugs. My family wasn't a family of huggers - this is something I learned when I dated a guy in college who had a big Italian family. They all hugged and it was just a given that you were hugged and held close by people that you didn't necessarily even know.

I tell my daughter she is beautiful. I hear a lot of messages about not commenting on a girl's appearance. I grew up with that. I wasn't told I was beautiful (or pretty, or cute). (My sister was the pretty one!) I was told I was smart. I freaking knew I was smart, I wanted to be beautiful. Everyday, every single day my daughter hears that she is smart and beautiful and fun to be around.

One on one mother daughter time. Or mother son time. I think it is important - particularly with three children, that each kid has that one on one time with us. Skadi and I have our things. Pedicures on occasion. A trip to Target or to the grocery store. I can count on that girl to shop with me. Leif and I do sushi lunches and piano lessons. So far, Silas and I do sick days. One day we will have our things.

In March we are planning our first mother daughter trip. I have an opportunity to go to a conference in Denver, where coincidentally, much of my family lives and can pick up the entertaining my daughter when I need to be in the conference.

And no, I don't think this is going to solve everything, but it's where I am starting with my 8 year old.

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