Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mothering your Mother

This is about the first time you realize that your Mother can’t Mother you any longer. She will never say that of course. The words go unspoken, but the reality is there.

It is the inevitable moment in the parent-child relationship when frailty enters and the natural order is reversed. If you are lucky, you are much older when this happens. But no matter when, it is a big sadness and nothing is ever quite the same.

The kindest thing to do…is just to carry on. But the problem comes in recognizing the moment.

It happened for me when I came home for Christmas one year with my young children. I arrived, exhausted, with the kids, after 12 hours of flying and stress. As I had in previous years, I wanted to walk into a welcoming winter wonderland, with fire blazing, dinner on the table, house decorated and wine at the ready.

Absolutely nothing was done. There was no dinner waiting, not even Chinese take out. There was no milk or juice in the fridge. No wine, boxes of cereal or bagels for breakfast. The house was not decorated. Not even a Christmas tree bought.

Instead of realizing what had really happened on a significant level, I was just furious with my Mother. I was frustrated and annoyed because I thought my Mother was just being lazy and inconsiderate.

I knew she was old…but couldn’t she have made one trip to the supermarket? Couldn’t she have brought a tree home and put it in a bucket out by the garage? Couldn’t she have made one bed a day?

It was a grim moment. I called the Chinese restaurant for a delivery. I got in the car and dashed to the grocery to pick up breakfast supplies. I made the beds and we fell into them. The next day I decorated, shopped, cooked and cleaned. And it was that way for ever more.

If you have been Mothered well, you rise to the challenge naturally and easily. It was up to me to make Christmas magic for my Mother. This is the sandwich role for a woman that comes at a certain age. You Mother your children and you Mother your Mother. And the whole time you are amazed at the energy you have to pull it off.

It is actually a gift for you, although you don’t recognize it at the time. You are paving the way for the great sadness that is yet to come.

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