In every stage of our lives, we are offered advice. As teenagers, we are encouraged to choose a particular college because it was so-and-so’s alma mater. As pregnant women, we are advised what to eat, how to sleep, and how much weight to gain. As new parents – well, at that point the unsolicited advice is endless.
But what about when the unappreciated and unsolicited advice is related to your relationship with your mother?
My mom has always been my best friend. I’ve always turned to her for advice, someone to talk to, someone to shop with, or someone to just sit in silence with. She taught me how to sew when I could just barely reach the foot pedal. I rang in my 21st year with her sipping on 2-foot tall mango daiquiris in Vegas and giggling our way down the strip to catch a Cirque du Soleil show.
I came to her for boy advice, talked to her about birth control in my teens, and although we had our share of disagreements over which boyfriends were right for me, I know now as an adult that she was totally right. (Isn’t that always such a kick in the pants when you have to admit your parents were right?)
My mom helped me put together care packages for my boyfriend (now husband) when he was overseas serving in Iraq, and offered words of comfort when I worried every day about him.
Three years ago we spent a whole weekend visiting nearly every quilt shop in Vermont.
She held my hand and offered encouragement right after my daughter was born and I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and sobbing at the culture shock of becoming a parent.
She is the Lorelai to my Rory.
When I was in high school, an acquaintance of my parents was
rude bold enough to question my mother about the closeness of our relationship.
“You really shouldn’t let your daughter get so close to you like that. Don’t you remember how hard it was when you lost your mom? Do you really want her to go through that too when you’re gone?”
Shouldn’t let your daughter get so close to you…
We were both dumbfounded. My mom had always been just as close with her own mother as she is with me. When my grandmother passed away in 2005, of course, it was devastating to us all. She was easily the sweetest woman I’ve ever met. She had thirteen children, and about a zillion grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and loved every person she met as if they were her favorite person in the world.
But just because it might be hard to lose someone, does that really mean you should avoid loving them fiercely in the first place?
Imagine how cold and lonely our world would be if we purposely avoided getting close to people just because there was the chance we would lose them one day. After all, Winnie the Pooh said it best when he said,
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
Now, it’s worth noting that a lot of things that came out of this acquaintance’s mouth were baloney… He once told me that married couples should be interested in ALL of the same things, and they should not do things separately. Umm… what? I don’t have a single iota of interest in golf, and my husband certainly isn’t going to be whipping anything up on my sewing machine any time soon. This man also told me that he and his wife never fight and that if you are in a good relationship, you shouldn’t ever fight. Well, guess what… he’s been divorced twice. So, I’m sorry if I don’t take his expert relationship advice seriously.
As I mentioned, in my nearly 30 years, I have been on the receiving end of plenty of unsolicited advice. I don’t mind advice, as I can usually take in what I find valuable, and let the rest just roll off.
But for some reason, the comments about my relationship with my mother really stuck in my craw.
Even now, as a parent, I ask my mom for advice or help at least three times a day, whether it’s a cooking question, a parenting question, or a sewing question. “Does this rash on Reagan’s back look serious?” “How much x, y, z do I add to the recipe?” And, since my parents’ house is about five minutes up the road from ours, “Do you have any parchment paper? Good, can I come over and get it?”
The mother I am today would be drastically different if my own mother and I didn’t have the relationship that we do. And if that means someday it will be harder for me to say goodbye, then so be it.
My own daughter is quickly becoming my tiny best friend. I hope with every fiber of my being that she and I can be as close as my own mother and I are. I hope that as she grows, the urgency with which she runs to me for comfort when she is scared or hurt will seamlessly translate into a comforting hug when she is sad after a teenage breakup, a phone call for advice when she needs help cooking a pot roast, or a maybe even a trip to Vegas for a special birthday.