Mothers–there’s just nothing like them on the face of the earth. I am one. I am not saying am a good one because that is something that only time can tell.
I realized that one DOES have to be a mother to know how it is like. You don’t have to give birth to be a mother. Time comes when you start caring for somebody outside of yourself, who depends on you for sustenance, knowledge and love. You slowly find out that your heart has sprouted legs and you’re reduced to making faces just to hear that giggle. Every fall, every bruise, every tear shed, sends shafts of pain through your soul.
As I tried to deal with motherhood (sorry guys, being a mom doesn’t come naturally for some women), I had to look up to several mother figures in my life for guidance, knowledge, support and even love. The longer I walked in these shoes, the more I realized that there was much to learn than breastfeeding, burping, nappy changing and discipline.
Here are a few questions to ask your mother that could also help you find yourselves [the questions were lifted and edited from an email – the comments however, are mine]:
1. What’s the one thing you would have done differently as a mom? Recently I had this conversation with someone I had considered one of the best mothers I know — the kind who never missed a kid’s play or a PTA conference. Her children are grown now, and they are neither independent nor particularly grateful.
“I should have let them fail,” she told me. “When my daughter forgot to do her homework, I shouldn’t have done it for her. When the other one got caught shoplifting, I should have let her spend a night in jail.” For better or worse, your mother has probably given this subject a good deal of thought.
I was able to ask her this at one point. Her answer? I should’ve had the strength to leave home and married somebody else. My grandmother was domineering and over protective. My mother felt that marrying would free her from my grandmother. Nope..didn’t happen.
2. Why did you choose to be with my father? “Look at him!” my mother says adoringly. “He looks just like Jascha Heifetz!” He does, actually. But Heifetz, perhaps the world’s greatest violinist, was one weird-looking dude. And my dad doesn’t even play the violin. (Which is a bit like an accountant being the spitting image of Mick Jagger.)
So was there anything else? “Well, he liked smart women,” says my mom, who was in medical school when they met in the 1950s. “So many men didn’t back then.” Not a bad reason to marry someone.
I asked this when I was in high school. She said, “at that time, your father was a different man.” She changed the subject.
3. In what ways do you think I’m like you? And not like you? Accuracy is not important here; you want to know her perceptions. Does she think you share her best qualities or her worst? (And do you agree?) Are your similarities and differences complementary — they make the two of you click — or are they the cause of all your conflicts?
Now that I think about it, my mom feels that a lot of her mother’s traits are in her – except the domineering part. She gave us our freedom to walk our path and follow our dreams. This would make a good conversation starter…one of these days.
4. Which one of us kids did you like the best? OK, chances are she’ll dodge this question. But you’ll probably force a compliment out of her — “You were the one who set the table when you were three” — and get a little insight into how she viewed each of you. And if she gives a straight answer? Well, you’ll all have something new to fixate upon.
My mother never answered this – she would always say “I love you and your brother equally”. However my father would say otherwise. You see my brother was more expressive, attentive and adorably funny. One couldn’t help but be swayed by his charms. It would be impossible not to even love him..a tad bit more. 🙂
5. Is there anything you have always wanted to tell me but never have? The woman who suggested this question had learned late in life that the “aunt” who had lived with her parents while she was growing up was, in fact, her father’s lover — an arrangement that apparently suited all involved. Your mom’s secrets might be a little less stunning. But hearing something she has been holding back may take your relationship into (good) uncharted territory.
I believe my mom told me everything that I needed to know and a few more things that made me see her as human. You see,when you’re a kid, you look up to your parents and worship them like superheroes. When my mom opened up and cried when my grandfather died, it showed me how strong and yet fragile she was. It didn’t make me love her any less.
6. Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a mother now than when you were raising our family? We might agonize about working more hours outside the home and competing with our kids’ cell phones for attention, but our mothers had other battles. “My mom thinks that if she had had a career, she would have been less frustrated and a better mother,” reports one friend. The two of you needn’t have a “Terms of Endearment moment over this one, but by understanding what she went through, you may appreciate your own situation more.
My mother never let me forget this – that there are more opportunities now open to working mothers than it was in her day. How women are treated with less discrimination at the workplace – than it was in her day. LOL
7. Is there anything you regret not having asked your parents? In my informal survey, the list went on and on, covering everything from “Did you ever think about leaving my dad for someone else?” and “Did you ever want to just throw in the towel?” to “What music do you want played at your funeral?” People regretted what they hadn’t asked — never what they had.
8. What’s the best thing I can do for you right now? My mother is not subtle: “Call every day. If you don’t, I think you’re dead.”
Other friends who had asked this question over the years were invariably surprised. One mom wanted her daughter to teach her to use a computer; another wanted her son, a plastic surgeon, to give her a face-lift.
The mom of a young colleague wanted to meet her friends. “I’d always thought she wasn’t interested in them,” she says. “In fact, my mom was just shy.”
OH yeah. “At least answer your text or your phone. Let me know you’re alive!”
9. Is there anything that you wish had been different between us — or that you would still like to change? This inquiry prompted one mother to plan a trip with her 30-year-old daughter — their first ever. She and her husband had always vacationed alone when their children were young, and she had felt bad about it for years. Whether you’re 25 or 55, chances are there is some dynamic between you and your mother that could be better. Give her a chance to put it out there.
I haven’t asked her this one yet. Perhaps…one of these days
10. When did you realize you were no longer a child? I know what the answer will be for me, and I was startled to hear my mother give the same response: “I knew it when my own mother died,” she told me. “That’s the last time there would be anyone in the world who always put me before herself.”
….and this one too.
If you had the chance to ask your mother any question – what would it be?