Becoming My Mother
So many moms today want to be different than their own mothers, and I am struggling to be just like mine. Now that I am a mom, I wish my mother had written a textbook. I don’t intend to put myself on a pedestal, but I turned out great. I never did drugs, I never drank under-age. I went to a college where there were less than seventy women in a sea of 900 men, and I held my own. I studied on board a ship that traveled to the Mediterranean Sea, and up the Mississippi River. I felt confident going into a male dominated career. I was strong enough to take the pay cut when the health of my unborn children became a factor in my field. I am sure I wasn’t a dream child, but I definitely wasn’t a bad kid.
I recall a key moment in my relationship with my mother, that occurred my senior year in high school. There was a party at a friend’s house with alcohol and no parents. I had told my mom about going over there earlier in the week, and she thought nothing of it, I hung out with this girl all the time. As I got ready for the party that night, I battled in my mind … do I tell my mom? I can still see the scene play out so clearly … I stepped around the corner to look at my mom reading on the couch. I told her flat out that Erica’s parents weren’t going to be home, and I knew she had someone bringing beer. My mom’s response was not what I had expected. She put down the book, looked me right in the eye and said, “I have faith in you. You were mature enough to tell me about tonight, I think you are mature enough to handle yourself appropriately.” She told me if I made a mistake to call, then she picked her book up and continued reading. No arguing, no yelling, no lecturing, no forbidding me to go. I remember thinking, what got me to this point? What made me tell my mom? It was because she trusted me that I had to tell her. The risk of disappointing her was far greater than the risk of being forced to stay home. The question then was: How did she have so much trust in me?
Trust and faith are two words often interchanged … As I think about that moment, it was more than trust my mom had in me, she had faith that I would do the right thing. Faith is defined as the allegiance to a person and my mom had pledged her allegiance to me. Letting me go was a leap of faith for both of us. Her faith in me bonded us together because my decisions would reflect how she raised me. She had no proof that I would make wise decisions but she needed to trust in her parenting skills. It would have been easier for her to forbid me to, and easier for me to complain to my friends how tyrannical my mother was. It was a true test for both of us, but the ball was in my court, and the decisions were up to me.
I never made good decisions because I feared the wrath of my parents. I made those decisions because of faith. The faith that even if I made a poor decision my mom would stand beside me. As a high school and college student it was that faith that guided me. I knew right and wrong, and I knew that whatever decision I made would not only affect me, but my mom, and others.
The decisions I make as a parent will affect how my children will make choices in life. As a new mom I would call and ask my mom advice, and she never gave answers. She would laugh with me, or cry with me, and say that it would be alright. She had faith that I could do it, and again, we were in it together. We had come full circle, she had to trust she taught me well, I had to trust myself as a parent, and I had to have faith in my children. Before this very moment, I never realized that was the key; it isn’t a matter of building trust it was a matter of unconditional faith, being in it together.
I began writing this because I was afraid of being a mom with out my mother. That I wouldn’t know what to do. When my mother passed away I looked for something concrete to keep her knowledge alive. I valued her parenting skills so deeply and was so afraid I didn’t possess them. But it isn’t a book I need to look in, it is myself. She raised me with love, trust in herself, and faith in me. Although I do feel like that high school girl again stepping out from around the corner to tell my mom that I am afraid of disappointing her, I can hear her telling me, “I have faith in you.”