While D isn’t new to the blogosphere, I am. She is a great writer, but I am so-so.; I spent way too many years buried in legal textbooks to flex any creative muscle whatsoever. Anyhoo, I enjoy reading her posts about motherhood and it always reminds me of how incredibly awesome this journey has been and will continue to be with her and our G. She has given me permission, I mean, the ok, to share some of my thoughts about motherhood, and being the ultimate pessimist that I am, I will share some of the insights I have about the kind of mother I do NOT want to be.
Mind you, I love my own mother. I want to be just like her, but I know I am failing miserably. However, I am thankful that I have not, or at least do not think I lack the mothering traits a particular relative of mine clearly does not possess. This particular relative, we shall refer to her as Ethel, is one of the most, or actually, *the* most critical, egotistical, controlling person I have ever met in my entire life. She absolutely trumps an old boss of mine who was un-affectionately referred to as the Princess of Darkness by those who worked for her. My dear Ethel could easily carry the moniker “Queen of all Evil.” She sincerely believes that the fear she struck in me at the tender age of eight, pulling me to the bathroom, giving me the scary eye (and she has one, seriously, Ethel used it on me this weekend) and chastising me for leaving toothpaste in her guest sink (which I do not think I did, I still believe it was one of my sisters) was the correct way to teach proper manners and respect for someone else’s home to a child. She believes that because I remember to this day what she did, she did the right thing; she does not think that, gee, maybe she scared this little grrl by using intimidation and fear as a means of getting her way. No, she thinks it was totally ok.
So now, I vow to never, ever use fear or criticism as a way to instill in my child the values that I think are important. While I am a bit on the clean side, I vow to never drag her by the arm into a room where she has left a mess and instruct her in harsh tones on the proper way to store her toys. I also vow to never insist that she serve guests in a manner that would require the least amount of effort on the guests’ part to spread cheese on a cracker. Uh…I think the last sentence may near some clarification.
During Ethel’s visit with us this past weekend, she brought a cheese spread to share upon her arrival. While chasing our two year old, and trying to keep a fifty pound dog from eating Ethel alive, I left the crackers in their package and the lid on the cheese spread, dropped it on a plate with a knife and set it in front of her. This, however, was a total affront to her good graces. She instructed me that I was to remove the crackers from the wrapper and the lid from the cheese, as any good host would do for their guests, she said. Being the good girl that I am (because, much to Ethel’s astonishment, I was raised with proper manners), I did as she instructed. But I did tell her in no uncertain terms, though, that this was MY house, and that we were not formal here, as I was chasing G off of the dining room table. The conversation ended there when she, or D, changed the subject.
The next morning we discussed this episode. We have had discussions in the past and have agreed to disagree on the many issues of which our opinions diverge. As we talked about the cheese and cracker episode I explained I did not want to end our relationship over a package of crackers and a plastic container of spreadable cheese. But it was clear that to her, my actions clearly meant that I had no respect for her. Really, folks, no lie, she actually said that not taking crackers out of a package was disrespectful to her. Now, Ethel is 71 years old, from an affluent suburb of Dayton and currently lives on Long Island, so she and I have had polar opposite lives (I am 33, from a poor city near Cleveland, living on the West side of Columbus).
I have been torn over my relationship with Ethel, and I have regretted not ending our relationship after the times she disrespected my sister, my mom and D, when she refused to admit she was in the wrong, even AFTER I proved she was wrong. I feel sorry for her, and she is family, AND she has no one else because she’s alienated so many people, AND she has been very generous to our family when needs arose. But I believe that this is it. She overstepped and disrespected D for the last time and there are no take backs. I do not want her as an example for G; although, come to think of it, I might not be the person I am without having had her in my life, to know what not to do and who not to be. I’ve circled the family wagons and D has said her peace, and now, we move on.
I want to create a childhood for G that is as similar to mine as I can possibly make it; where my sisters and I had the freedom to be ourselves, guided by gentle hands, to be led by good examples and to be loved unconditionally. It has crossed my mind to move back in to my childhood home, find a job in that industrial, gritty, and depressed city I grew up in and raise my children there, because despite all the hardship around us and the daily struggles my parents faced raising four grrls, we were truly happy. I won’t be moving back to Lorain anytime soon, but I will try my best, as I pledge here, to do right by G, and to love her as much as my parents love me and to make her childhood a very happy one, where she can eat crackers right out of the package and she can leave toothpaste in the sink. Ok, maybe not the toothpaste part, but definitely, definitely she can eat crackers any way she likes.