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Mommy Musings - Becoming My Mother

POSTED June 22, 2011 12:52 a.m.
It is pretty fair to say that during the course of parenting we eventually cross the path where we channel the parent we grew up with. The channeling can reveal its ugly head at any given moment. Sometimes we catch it immediately and other times it may require a little more thought and be a bit more indirect.
More times than I care to acknowledge, I open my mouth to say something to my children only to hear my mother instead. Depending on the day and the circumstance, there are often times I feel as if there is honestly nothing original left to say.
It is also fair to say, I am a much different mom than my mother was. Circumstances alone have been the biggest contributor to the differences. Approach and maturity aside, there are just some philosophies, phrases, gestures I cannot escape when it comes to channeling my mother.
A prime example of this would be when my mom and I are having a telephone conversation with my four-year-old within earshot of our conversation. Without fail, Maddy is always quick to start with, “What did she say Momma?” or “Tell Memaw next time she comes over (insert useless information here).” That is my daughter. She is her mother.
I know this because I used to do the same thing to my mom as a child … and I remember it. Without fail my mother would always say, “This is a conversation between me and grandma, you can talk when I am through.” And yes — this is something I have now said to my daughter, who like her mother discounts my request and continues talking.
There’s also the indirect dysfunction I recently realized I had now passed onto my children. I like to call it the “Handicapped through Sheltering” approach.
Being a loving mother, who feared her baby growing up too fast, my mother restricted me from doing a number of things sooner than she felt appropriate. So the sentence, “I don’t care what the other kids are doing,” was said often in our home, especially in the Tween and Teen years.
I should also point out here that for the purpose of my children I have put my own spin on this phrase and now tell them, “Well, that is not what we do in our family.”
When others wore panty hose to the Junior High dance, I wore Holly Hobby knee socks. Forget that I was 5’ 4” at the time; that is irrelevant, I was only 13 (or so said my mom). The issue of make-up was not permitted and then I had to have proper instruction at Merle Norman. Going in a car with a boy … well we won’t even cover that topic other than to say, it just did not happen until I was much older and even then it was only ‘guy friends’ offering rides because I did not have a license.
Like my mother, however, I have not been in a hurry for my children to grow up. Because of this their father and I established a few rules or guidelines early on.
One such guideline came in the way of video games and the appropriateness or excessive use with children. Because of this our son has not really been exposed to video games other than the Leapster brand, which is education- based.
A little over a year ago, we began to realize that “sheltering” may have in fact been a “handicap” of sorts for our son. While visiting with friends, the children of the other family all took out their DS games and asked our son if he wanted to play. Staring at the rectangles as if he had just landed here from Mars, our son declined and stated he would just like to watch them. Fast forward to several weeks ago as my husband and I discussed what to buy our soon to be seven-year-old for his birthday. Recognizing our potential shortcoming with the “Handicapped through Sheltering” approach, I suggested perhaps a DS game. The two of us discussed the pros, cons, potential challenges and agreed to think on it.
Shortly thereafter I overheard my son and his friend as they played in our front yard. My son was sharing his excitement with his friend over a score he had received on his Batman Leapster game. The conversation went something like this:
Son: I made it through the high level door on my video game.
Friend: Oh… on your Wii?
Son: No, not we, you weren’t there. I did it on my video game.
Friend: Oh… on your Xbox?
Son: No, I wasn’t on a box. It was on my video game, at my swim meet, while I was waiting.
Friend: You mean on your DS?
Son (becoming frustrated): NO… on my video game, my Leapster Video game.
Our son received a DS for his seventh birthday earlier this month. He could not be happier, nor could we.
What I came to learn through this experience are some pretty valuable parenting lessons.
At times our fears or misconceptions may impede the progress or socialization of our children. It is not necessarily our job to shelter them from what may be our fear. Instead it is our job to empower them with knowledge, which will ultimately help them exercise better judgment.
This thought brings me full circle to a thought my mother shared with me when many of my friends started having children. One friend had a strong belief against using the word “No” when it came to her then two-year-old. The friend explained to me the negativity that taught our children and how harmful that would be to their mental growth.
Days later and still somewhat baffled, I explained this thought process to my mother. As I finished the explanation against the word “No,” my mother gave me her own take on it.
“Teresa, people spend their whole life having others tell them no. If your child is going to hear the word no for the first time, don’t you think it best if it comes from someone they know loves them?”
And there it is, the wisdom of a seasoned mom versus a new mom. There is no perfect plan to parenting. We will never get it right all the time. What I do know is that on those occasions when I am haunted by my mother’s words or actions, what I have come to learn is not to be frustrated but accept that I, too, am growing.

Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at thammond@oakdaleleader.com or by calling 847-3021.
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