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April 28, 2010

Too Much Rope

When my tSc0003a959hree older daughters were just babies - before any of them could really talk coherently, I clearly remember sitting with them at a roadside "Denny's" on our way to Grandma's and wondering what they would be like as adults.  What would they look like?  What would they have to say?  What would a restaurant experience feel like without a spilled drink all over the table?  

That day, they were interested in who was sitting in the booth behind them, what disgusting thing they could find under the table, how many trips to the potty they could get out of a 45 minute stop, sugar packets and what it felt like to bathe in pancake syrup.  I longed for the day when I could control them better, reason with them, share a meaningful conversation.  Mostly, I longed for the day when I could relax as a mom. 

Such a joke.

My oldest is 21 and my twins are about to turn 20 in a couple of months and I long for the day when I can control them better, reason with them, share a meaningful conversation and relax as a mom.  Obviously, I have learned that this day does not exist.  

My highly developed instincts as a mother have always told me to hold them tightly and close - and if it chokes a little bit?  Oh well.  By the time I entered high school, my parents were, for all intents and purposes, separated and my mother became somewhat of a modified hippie.  She loved us more than life itself but she subscribed to the times and gave us all the rope we wanted, and then some.  While we all survived it, the lack of boundaries, the lack of guidance was, in my view, disastrous.  In direct response to my experience, I went the other way.  My inability to give my girls "some rope" has been legendary with family and friends over the years.  Why, I ask, would I give them any rope if even the slightest possibility exists that they might hang themselves?  

Well, I have the answer now.  The answer is:  if you don't give them rope to hang themselves, all that rope you are holding on to might eventually hang you.

Raising children was not easy.  I became an overnight mom when my best friend, Anne, died unexpectedly when the twins were only a month old and Amanda was a couple of months shy of two.  My desire to raise these babies, whom I loved, as my own carried the additional "weight" of a nearly tangible motivation to do right by my friend in her absence.  I was determined not to lose any of them to the temptations and pitfalls that await all children who grow up.  And as a novice mom, it was very clear to me how to do that.  I would do the opposite of my mom.  I would simply tell them what to do and they would do it.  Because I was the mom.  And that's the way it works, right?  Oddly, this game plan met with some resistance.

Don't get me wrong.  The girls are fantastic and I am very proud of them.  And we do love one another.  But as you can surely imagine, the power struggle between three young and growing girls longing for some independence and me were of epic proportions given I was the mom who reigned from "The Land of No". And the high school years (especially with my oldest) were four years that seemed like twenty.  I aged.  A lot.  (It's like looking at a photo of a U.S. President on inauguration day and comparing it to a photo taken on the last day of his four year term.  Dramatic difference.  Same four years.)  And there were plenty of times when it was painful.  But I did the best that I could.  The best I knew how.  

The girls were so close together, I did not have the benefit of learning on one and correcting my mistakes on the other two.  They were all in the same bucket.  Strict was my middle name.  And I must say, I don't regret some of my decisions - jeans that hung so low in the front that a sneeze could expose everything was never gonna happen in my house.  On the other hand, the fight over thong underwear wasn't worth it in the end.  I mean, who cares?  

I watched everything that was going on, read between the lines, called teachers for "their take", read text messages, forbid all sots of things and still - still my oldest would sneak out every chance she could.  And the more I tried to control, more she fought back.  My twins were more compliant.  I'm sure they saw what was going on and decided that having me around, however hardcore I might be, was better than having me die of a heart attack.  And I am grateful to them for behaving.

But I have learned a great deal from the first go-around, and while I am still pretty strict, with my youngest I let a lot more "go".  I am trying to find the balance.  She has my trust until she proves she doesn't deserve it instead of living under a cloud of motherly suspicion.  I listen a bit more and weight my answers instead of  automatically deciding "against".  And of course the older girls think I am being extremely unfair.  And maybe I am.  But another round of high school is looming around the corner and I really would like to survive it.

Happily, they have all become remarkable people.  And I do take some credit, although mostly it is who they are - and God.  We have found our un-easy way to each other now that they are adults.  They understand that I did what I did because I loved them (even if they swear they will not be the same kind of parent I was.) But still I cannot help myself from wanting to tell them what they shouldn't wear and who not to date or weighing in when they do things I do not think are good, or responsible, or in their best interest. They hug me and love me and confide some things in me.   But they tire of my hovering and I noticed that each one of them "secretly" un-friended me on Facebook.  That actually hurt.  Sort of like a rope around my neck.

For more of my rants, visit http://www.dumpingmypurse.com.

This is an original post to 50-Something Moms Blog.