Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Parents

A while I ago I did a post asking if people had questions they wanted me to answer; one of those was PT-LawMom who asked: "Seems like you are very close to your parents. What is the best thing about them/their parenting style that you'd like to emulate to Landon? What parenting mistake would you like to avoid?" I've thought a lot about this question since she wrote it but it seems I never have time to sit down and draft the kind of answer it deserves. Since today is Mother's Day and JP is giving me the gift of 30 quiet minutes in bed with my laptop, I think I'll try.

The greatest gift my parents gave us (my two younger siblings and I) was unconditional, frequently voiced, love- for us individually, for us as a family, and for each other. I knew without a doubt there wasn't a single thing I could do that could make them stop loving me and I knew without a doubt they would never stop loving each other. I can't imagine my life without those two constants and even though they seem separate, they were very much woven together in the fabric of my childhood. Their pride in each of us is also wrapped up in that. At night my mom or dad would stop by each one of our rooms to sit on the bed and have a brief (or sometimes not so brief) individual chat about our day. I remember the night before my first day of fourth grade my dad telling me how grown up I was and how proud he was of me. I'm sure he said this countless of other times, but that one always stands out- especially now that I look at Landon and wonder how I could possibly think him grown-up at age 9. But maybe my dad knew how much I'd love to hear that or maybe I really will look at Landon on the eve of his "upper" years of elementary school and marvel at the mini man he's become- the point is, my dad said it, always said the good that he was thinking about each of us, and I remember it 17 years later.

The second thing involves money. We didn't have a lot of extra growing up- my mom stayed home, there were three kids- we were middle class but always careful. Vacations involved driving, sometimes for days, and camping- not airplanes and hotels (though camping was so much fun it wasn't until years later that I realized part of the reason we did it was financial), meals were always eaten at home, pizza was frozen not ordered, etc. But even though money was tight my parents always saved for that vacation and splurged in little ways that were so special that I remember each of them to this day. In 7th grade I was obsessed with butterflies and during one of my friends and my big social excursions to the mall I came across a white tank at American Eagle with a blue butterfly on it. I had never owned anything from AE (or Gap or any of those stores) and I was completely in love with this $15.50 tank top. I never thought to buy it but was enthusiastically describing it to my dad that night before dinner when he suddenly pulled a $20 out of his wallet and told me to go get it. I'm totally crying right now remembering that and I wore that tank top until it could no longer be described as white. I very much hope that regardless of our future financial situation, JP and I will avoid giving in to our children's every whim and also occasionally loosen our budget so that they can one day have a story that means as much to them as the one I just told.

The third thing I hope to continue with Landon is the way my parents did little things to make big events special. The morning of my first high school swim team tryout there was a homemade card signed by all my family members and a bean bag mustang (our school mascot) with a blue bow tied around his neck in my cereal bowl. That's sweet in and of itself, but when you know that my mom's sewing basket contains only fabric glue and that bow was sewed on with little blue stitches, it just about makes me burst into tears. When I went to UT's orientation the summer before my freshman year she gave me a book with a note in the front about how proud she was of me and how much she was going to miss me when I was gone. I had previously berated her for never seeming sad that I was leaving when other parents were so emotional about it. She wrote about how even though she was sad, this milestone was about me, not her, and all she wanted for me was the happiness and excitement she felt when she went off to college.

Which brings me to I think the most important thing my parents did for me- allowing me to grow up into the independent person that I am. The more I see other grown acquaintances of mine completely enmeshed in their parents, the more I am grateful that mine cut the ties. I love my parents very much and I greatly enjoy their company and respect their opinions, but I make my own decisions and have done so for a long time. Whenever my mom suggests some get together or idea she always ends with "well you can talk about it with JP and let me know what you think" and she means it. We're our own unit and my parents respect that. I think the most important thing I can do for Landon is teach him to be his own person. I hope he will want to talk to me about the big decisions in his life when he's grown, I hope he values my opinion and enjoys our time together, but if he needs to talk to me before acting then I think I've failed. And now that I have a child I can see how tempting it could be to try to keep him dependent on me. JP's mother tried for years with him and it ended in a strained, resentful relationship that hurts everyone involved. So I thank my parents for that, for stepping back when I was a baby of 18 and letting me think I was all grown-up. They were always there to act as counsel and I still look forward to talking out decisions with them, but I've generally already made the decision. I hope to enable Landon to do the same.

They weren't perfect. Just like I can suddenly cry remembering these stories, I can also become immediately indignant remembering the injustices they delivered, generally involving some perceived unfairness among my siblings and I. But the fact that I remember those just as clearly as I remember the good, and yet the good stands out so much more, gives me hope that I can screw up along the way with Landon and still come out okay in the end. There's a lot more I could write (the fact they didn't fall into the trap of trying to be our best friends comes to mind), but I think the biggest gifts are the love, the pride, the little things, and the independence they gave us.

So Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, I need to pull myself together and go call mine.


  1. what a beautiful post.

  2. Your parents sound just absolutely flawless.
    Happy Mother's Day!

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  4. A wonderful loving tribute to your parents. Which is as it should be.

    Happy Mother's Day, LL.

  5. That made me cry. Happy Mother's Day!

  6. What a sweet post! I love the story about the tank top. They sound wonderful

  7. I'm so glad you did this. I remember how supportive your parents were during everything you guys went through with Landon and it was really impressive. Sounds like they gave you some amazing memories.

  8. What a lovely post. I hope that one day my children will be able to say such wonderful things about me.

  9. Bengali Chick5/12/09, 2:44 PM

    I agree with everyone -- a absolutely lovely post. You're a terrific mom.