“I exercise discipline, as well as love. Provide limits, as well as freedom. I tried to tend the roots as well as the stems, and slowly and carefully plant ideas and concepts of right and wrong, religion and social implications.”
–Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
During a rather heated debate the other day, my youngest asked me in absolute and visible frustration, “Why can’t you just be a cool mom?” before she stormed off in bitter resignation to her punishment of solitary confinement. Oh, I know; we’ve all heard it. A couple of days later, the tears had abated, door slamming silenced, order in our universe temporarily restored, and as I struck out on my evening run, I asked her to join me on her bike. It was relatively close to her bedtime you see, and any opportunity to delay it is always welcome. As we approached an uphill, and desperately seeking the conversation to be one-sided (I hate hills), I asked her, “So, what exactly constitutes being a cool mom?”
So instead of merely explaining the relevant virtues of a cool mom, she took this as a sign that my path to self-actualization might require her input for my character growth and development. “Well, for starters, a ‘cool mom’ just goes with the flow. She allows boyfriends, MSN and goes shopping a lot…” I chugged up this hill listening to her diatribe which quickly wandered off course and into a complete makeover for her room. Good grief, whose self-actualization journey is this, anyway?
I’ve been thinking recently a lot about the Serenity prayer:
O God and Heavenly Father,
Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Unlike my running route, with the occasional downhill that provided much needed relief and recovery, motherhood is an uphill battle all the way. Though I made a few further inquiries of my daughter’s ‘cool mom’ description primarily for clarification, it was clear that I needn’t worry about elevating my parental status to ‘cool’… it ain’t happenin’ any time soon.
I have recently experienced several unpleasant parenting adventures (believe me, I am not an adrenaline, thrill-seeking junkie) that have left me reeling in self-doubt, anxiety, worry and quite frankly, more than just a little pissed off. I need another 1000 words and a bottle of pinot gris to explain it all, but let’s just say that I feel like my efforts at setting limits, sowing the seeds of justice, and expressing love and concern have been dismissed, detested, trampled and ignored. When and how does a mother just throw her hands up in disgust and say, “I’ve had it, I give up!”
Well, she doesn’t.
Motherhood can be a lonely place in your heart but I know that it is in the heart is where true love abides and thrives. Somehow we see beyond the hurled insult; though inappropriate, that it may be a plea for privacy. The disregarded and dismissed curfew may be unwarranted, but may possibly a request for greater freedom and trust. The blatant disregard for property and authority – and I’m not yet ‘over’ this one – may be a statement that they need make their own mistakes and learn from them. I may not be Rose Kennedy, a mother of nine, but don’t expect to see the white flag waving any time soon in my kitchen. I read recently that parenthood is a job, but it’s one of the few jobs that does not receive regular feedback, coaching, and performance evaluation from a higher authority. Well, maybe the many exasperating child-rearing setbacks are the constructive feedback and the occasional signal for corrective action. Perhaps I’ve missed a few of those signals along the way, but I do know now that I am definitely not a ‘cool mom’…and I that I can live with.
Hey, and another thing … when do I get sent to my room?