Monday, June 10, 2013

Don't expect to understand mom until you are one

My last column included my wish that there was an early warning system for when your child is about to do something for the last time … last time he’ll willingly hold your hand when you pick him up from school, last time she’ll ever need a bottle, last time he’ll be small enough to carry to bed. Because without these early warnings, these events come and go before you realize what happened, and then they’re gone forever.


This week, I had the privilege of speaking at the Mother-Daughter Tea at Roseburg High School, an event that is held for graduating senior girls and their mothers. The organizers asked me to speak on the relationships between mothers and daughters. The idea of the early warning system was still fresh in my mind, and I got to thinking of the things I wished I knew at 18 that I know now.

Like the fact that my mom was not trying to ruin my life when she said “no” to certain things. In fact, she was trying to preserve my life. Of course I didn’t come to this realization until I had children of my own.

I wanted to give the graduating senior girls an early warning system of their own so I asked some friends to share what they wished they knew about their mothers when they were 18 that they understand now as moms themselves.

Here’s what they had to say:

• I wish I had seen how much my mother loved me despite her faults. I wish that I had known that there are few people in the world that will support you completely each and every time you need it without fail, no matter what. I didn't realize that then and I wish I had been more grateful.

• I didn’t realize how truly worried about me she was when I stayed out late with friends. While I was a good kid, I would have communicated better and more responsibly communicated knowing how much my own mommy heart worries about my own kids ... and they aren't even driving yet! To realize the vulnerability of a mommy heart before becoming a mommy, that is what I wish I known about her.

• I understand now why my mom so easily cried all through my teen years. Menopause is a very real thing.

• My mom just didn't know how to deal with a teenager whose personality was so different that her own. It was the trying that mattered.

• I didn’t realize then just how overwhelming trying to "do it all" can be.

• The basic issues of teenage years are the same for you and your mom: self-esteem, body image and figuring out your future career path. We all struggled with those as did our mothers.

• I think girls need to realize that they will eventually, in part or in while, become their mothers. They will misstate the titles of songs and movies. Apparently, Justin Timberlake's song is "Suit and Tie" not "Shirt and Tie". They will irritate their daughters when they text in full sentences or try to use “lol” or “brb.” And they will readily lay down their lives to ensure the happiness of their own daughters because being a mom of a daughter is one of the greatest gifts this world has to offer.

• I understand now that we all view life through a different lens. No view is necessarily right or wrong, just viewed through our own perspective and experiences. Allow a lot of grace when you don't always agree.

• When I was 18, I thought that my mom (then 46) was practically perfect. While the process of taking her down from the pedestal I'd built was unsettling, I can see her more fully, now.

• As an adult, I realize that every person loves from her own prison, be that large or small. As much as I adore my daughter, I love her from my prison, just as my mom loved/loves me from hers. I want to be thankful for the good, to honor what can be truly honored and to honor that well, and to allow myself to grieve and grow from the areas of shortcomings.

• Don't hold yourself back and always get your seat at the table. Don't let anybody tell you that you are not good enough.

• I wish I would have realized that the things in my life that seemed like a big deal when I was 18 were really so trivial and seem silly to me now.

Girls, I give you your early warning system. Now go and continue becoming the great, wise and beautiful women that you were created to be.

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.