Thank You. Part Three.
Oh, you thought you wouldn’t cry today? Sorry, no.
When I was teaching preschool it was required that we take classes to keep up-to-date on our teaching skills. Rather than taking any classes about actual teaching, I was always drawn to the classes that addressed the emotional needs of children. They would have plenty of opportunity to learn how to read and write, but they would have only one year with me and I felt that would be best spent learning how to be happy, get along with others, and believe in themselves. It was what made me want to be a preschool teacher over any other type of teacher. One year I took a class called Love & Logic. Their goal is to help parents “Raise children who are self-confident, motivated, and ready for the real world”. (anyone interested can read more here: http://www.loveandlogic.com)
As I sat through each class, I didn’t learn all that much. Not because it isn’t some of the most useful information in dealing with children, but because each and every example they brought up might as well have been from my childhood. Sometimes even word-for-word things you had repeatedly said to me growing up. By the end of the class I learned that my mother was an emotional genius, and I wasn’t surprised by that at all. Here was proof that what you do works. You raised a self-confident, motivated girl, ready for the real world. I am, in general, happy, optimistic, motivated, hard-working, and grateful for not only the strong relationship I have with you, but the fact that the connection we share enables me to make that connection with anyone I want to.
“A lot of parents will do anything for their kids except let them be themselves.” – Banksy
From childhood friendships to teaching preschool, I know this to be very true. Not you. You encouraged me to be myself. No matter what crazy new ideas I had for who I wanted to be and what I wanted to try, you helped make it possible. You didn’t always like or approve of my choices, and you let me know when you didn’t, but you gave me the freedom to make them and learn from them. You told me you did this because you believed in me, and you knew without a doubt that I was smart enough to learn from my mistakes. I didn’t always believe that I would be, but your faith in me made me brave enough to try. It also made me feel comfortable that no matter what trouble I got myself into, I didn’t have to hide it from you. I could always go to you for help and guidance without worrying that you would punish me even more than I had already punished myself. I don’t even remember the circumstances, but I remember a day when I came to you about some trouble I’d gotten into. I thought I would surely be grounded for it. But after a long talk where you interviewed me about what I had learned and how I would handle it in the future, you said you were proud of me. PROUD OF ME?! Proud of me for thinking about what I had learned, and for being brave enough to talk to you about it. You said I didn’t need to be punished, because, “That’s not how life works. We make mistakes and the natural consequences are the punishment.” If I didn’t care about what I’d done, or I’d hidden it from you, then I’d have been in trouble with you, but first you gave me the opportunity to prove myself. You always gave me that first.
When you were frustrated or angry you would lock yourself in your room until you cooled down before you came to talk to us about it. It showed that you loved and respected me enough to give me your best side. It also gave me the opportunity to cool down and have time to think about what I’d done and why it had made you angry. It taught me how to deal with people in a healthy way when I’m angry with them. It taught me patience. It taught me that just because I’m angry with someone else, that doesn’t give me the right to speak from a place of anger. It taught me how to stay cool and avoid saying things I would soon regret.
At least once a year you would sit me down and ask me to grade you as a parent. “Is there anything you wished I did better?” I am laughing as I type this. I remember laughing when you asked me. It’s not funny like a joke. It’s funny like, I’m so tickled that you would ask! The type of person that is humble enough to ask this of their children is not the parent that needs to change what they’re doing. And to my surprise, I ended up with a husband that does the exact same thing. He regularly checks in with, “How am I doing? Anything you wished I did differently?” NO, you sweet man, there’s not.
If everyone isn’t amazed yet, here’s probably the most impressive thing about your parenting. It’s the list of things you never said.
You never said:
“Because I said so.”
“Because I’m the parent, that’s why!”
“You’ll never be able to do that.”
“Not under my roof!”
“My house, my rules.”
“Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about.”
“Do as I say, not as I do.” (I remember us both ranting about how incredibly stupid it is for any parent to say this. I loved that so much about you.)
“Why can’t you be more like _____ ?” (insert name of one of my peers)
“I don’t care.”
“Act your age.”
“Don’t you get it?”
Like most children, I heard these phrases plenty throughout my childhood, but never from you. You know how many people I have met that can say the same? None. Seriously, there are so many things about you that I’m grateful for, it’s hard not to just keep listing more and more of them. I don’t know where to stop. I can’t forget to mention your selflessness, not just toward your family and friends, but anyone who is in real need. I watched you give so much that I would sometimes worry it was too much, or I would worry that people would take advantage of you, and when I felt they did I would get SO ANGRY. But you would remain calm, because you were happy with yourself and what you had done, and that was what was important. Maybe you were disappointed or angry with them, but you’d quickly work through that and move on to the next person in need.
You have always been there for me, not just emotionally, but you’ve worked so hard to make sure I could have the best life possible. Dancing was expensive, but you made sure as long as I wanted to dance, I could. When I wanted to try new arts and crafts projects, you would bargain hunt for hours until you found something affordable for me. When we couldn’t afford the prom dress I wanted, you MADE IT FOR ME, and it turned out even better than the one I wanted. You offered to get a second job to put me through college if I wanted to go. You made my wedding dress. When I stopped being able to work because of the cancer, you refinanced your home so you could help make sure Mark and I didn’t lose ours. You kept food on our table, gave me rides to treatment so Mark wouldn’t lose too much time at work, did the majority of our yard work, and made sure we had a working car after both of our cars broke down the same week I went in for surgery.
I have more respect for you than any other person I know. If I can be half as humble, understanding, patient, and kind as you are, I will feel like a success. My most favorite traits I learned from your example are my passion to fight for underdogs, my ability to motivate people, and my creativity. You say you aren’t the artistic one in the family, but that’s not true. Maybe you haven’t put the hours into the specific types of art that I do, but I would not be as creative as I am if it weren’t for your ability to find a creative solution to any problem. As soon as I want to do some new project and I share it with you, you ooze creative ideas to make it possible. Art is nothing without creativity, and you have it in buckets.
Thank you for loving me unconditionally. Thank you for caring enough to think about what type of parent you wanted to be, and for making it a priority to get there. Thank you for letting me be myself. Thank you for always taking my side first when another adult would accuse me of wrong doing. Maybe our memories are different, maybe I doubt I remember everything with accuracy, but that’s not what’s important. People don’t remember what you say to them, and they don’t remember what really happened. They only remember how you made them feel. You made me feel loved, wanted, accepted, included, respected, and happy. I could go on forever about your strengths. I’m pretty sure I’ll post this and then be frustrated with all the things I remember in the next few days that I wished I’d added to this letter. Thank you.
I love you,
After bringing up her awesome skills I have just one small rant to tack on.
There is a common argument from authoritative parents when they refer to new parenting techniques like Love & Logic, and what they call “this pseudo bullshit that’s sending the country to hell.” I once heard this argument from the dad of a boy I was dating, and I’ve heard it from parents of friends, and of course all over the internet. What the people that use this argument have in common is that they can’t just use the basic argument as is, they always throw in hurtful words about the people that “baby their kids.” (if you have to put someone else down via name-calling to prove your point, your point is invalid.) The people I have known personally that have said it, would typically use abusive, hurtful words to get their kids to fall in line. I want to be clear, I am not saying anyone not like my mom is a tyrant. I’m specifically talking about the extreme polar opposite of her. The type of person that looks at her type of parenting and calls it wrong. The argument is that the reason they act like tyrants (my word, not theirs) is because if their kid is in the middle of the street and a car is coming, and they yell for them to get out of the street, they don’t want their kid to stand there and ask why and then BAM they are dead.
As someone who was raised with this “pseudo bullshit” by only one of my parents, I know without a doubt that this argument is hollow. If I was in the street and my mother yelled for me to move, I would move and FAST. The open dialogue I had with her, and the fact that she would always let me question her, meant that I knew if she was using and authoritative voice or yelling at me to do something, I could trust that it was for no other reason than my safety. If I was curious I could question her about it later when I wasn’t in danger. On the flip side, if the tyrant yells at me, or demands me to do anything, my first instinct is to stand there in rebellion, because the tyrant is always telling me I should just do whatever they say and they don’t respect me enough to explain why. I can’t tell the difference between yelling at me for safety and just yelling at me from that well of anger they so often speak from.
And screw you for saying my mom’s parenting is bullshit. Your whole brain is bullshit.