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What Will They Think of Me?

This is it. The last thought of four thoughts that came out of reading Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays. You can go backwards to the first thought or second thought or the third thought, even if you haven’t read the book because these thoughts aren’t tied to the text but rather float above the page. In other words, reading these posts will not ruin the book, and at the same time, they’re not (I think) confusing.

This is the final thought.

A few years ago, we took the kids to a reunion.  While we were there, we were talking with a friend who was meeting the twins for the first time, and he told them that we had been super cool back in our 20s.  The kids looked at him, dubiously.

I thought about that moment while I was reading Chapter 13, page 35:

When you’re young, you think of your parents with the simplest adjectives. As you get older, you add more adjectives and notice some of them contradict each other. He’s tall. He’s tall and strong. He’s tall and strong and smart. He’s tall and strong and smart but busy. He’s tall and strong and smart but busy and aloof and judgmental. She’s safe. She’s safe and kind. She’s safe and kind and caring. She’s safe and kind and caring but sad. She’s safe and kind and caring but sad and lonely and brittle. Maturity colonizes your adolescent mind, like an ultraviolet photograph of a vast cosmic nebula that turns out, on closer examination, to be a pointillist self-portrait.

I wonder sometimes how the kids will think of us down the road.  Clearly they will not consider us cool.  (Or, if they do consider us cool, it will be in retrospect and not in the moment.)  But what other adjectives will come together to form this nuanced version of what they observed from being the closest people to us?

I mean, we are observing them and describing them, but they will clearly do the same back to us, even if they’re not conscious of it.  While we marvel at them, I am fairly certain that we do not occupy the same mind space and energy in their brain.  That’s natural.  That’s the giving tree nature of this type of relationship.

There are plenty of people that we are close to, who know us in a very different way than our kids will ever know us.  But our kids live in this house.  They see our faults and foibles, or successes and strengths, up close.  So I wonder how that will translate into adjectives down the road.

Your thoughts?


1 a { 10.04.17 at 8:02 am }

Well, how do you and your siblings think of your parents? It was both amusing and horrifying to me how my sister’s had such trouble reconciling my mother as a person with their idea of what a mother should be. They would get their feelings hurt, while I would be all “why did you expect something different?” I guess I was more able to see her as a person because I came along at a different point in her life and got less attention. They held grudges for things that weren’t entirely her fault. Maybe it’s just because I have a better ability to see the other side of the story.

As for my dad – he was quite old and settled when I came along (48 – my age now, as it happens), so he really wasn’t cool…until I learned about all the hijinx he got up to in his youth. I think he would have been well-described as a scamp.

Anyway, your kids will see you always in terms of your relationship with them. So they will see you as cool (in retrospect, most likely) when they realize a) you are a person outside of being their mother and b) when they think of all the cool things you do with and for them.

My husband always accuses me of refusing to discipline and trying to be the kid’s buddy. I just have an easier time getting her to comply with me, because I make her aware that we are all people with faults and moods and complexities (including her father – he should be thanking me for helping her see that he’s not just a giant jerk sometimes). So I hope that our relationship will be less fraught and confrontational than theirs when puberty really kicks in.

2 Cristy { 10.04.17 at 8:26 am }

a’s comment is interesting and given me a lot to think about. I agree about the reflection on how we see people changing over time and that we each have a unique perspective given our roles (daughter vs sister vs wife vs mother). It’s interesting as we know our own history and are aware of the narratives others may have of us. But with our kids those narratives are particularly interesting as we seeing them through a unique lens of coming from us.

I used to be asked as a child about my parents. My dad in particular. I remember being a teenager and answering the question by telling them that yes, he’s a physician, but to me he is my father. And that relationship is unique given the situation. And though I love my father, I still have him in a different space compared to where I hold colleagues, Grey and especially the Beats.

3 Working mom of 2 { 10.04.17 at 10:33 am }

Well, even though we’re quite old and I’m frequently asked if I’m the grandma (F*** you people), I hope/don’t think they think of us as “quite old” at least not yet. Even though my husband was 48/50 when our kids were born (and I was 42/44), we are both active and do a lot of sporty/outside stuff and my husband is very playful. So I hope they just love us and think of us as normal although they are aware at 4 and 6 that we’re older, since I’ve complained in their presence about the grandma thing. I fear when they’re teenagers they’ll be embarrassed of us for being old.

4 Sharon { 10.04.17 at 11:55 am }

I do think that our ideas of our parents as whole people vs. just “Mom” and “Dad” evolve and change as we mature. I feel that, in many ways, I know my parents much better now, when I am in my 40s and they are in their 70s, than I knew them when I was a child living in their home. For good and bad. 😉

I have sometimes thought about the fact that my sons will never know the “me” that I was before they were born. Having become a mother at age 40, I lived a lot of life before they came along! I had an entirely different professional career, for one thing, before my current one.

My sons are only 5, so at present, they think of me as much nicer and kinder than I think of myself (or frankly, than most other people in my life probably think of me — ha!). I’m sure that that will evolve and change as they get older.

5 Ana { 10.04.17 at 3:11 pm }

Interesting question and comments! Like others, I’m sure their ideas of us will change continuously as they grow up. For Working Mom above, don’t worry, no matter what, your kids will be embarrassed of you for some reason when they are teens. Too old/too young/trying too hard/not trying hard enough. Currently my son calls me a “cool mom” but he is only 7. I’ll take it while I can.

6 Lori Lavender Luz { 10.06.17 at 11:27 am }

I love that quote from the book. Wow. Seeing an object from simplicity to complexity as the subject evolves. Make me think about me in my kids’ minds as time goes on.

I love your statement about the giving tree nature of things. It took me awhile to shift from thinking what my kids think of ME to me thinking about how I see my parents.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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