Listen to Your Mother – My Version

Shibboleths, sayings, mantras, reflexes – the things our mothers said or say in response to virtually any problem as if they had each been allotted a set of 20 to use in rotation through the days and years of active mothering.

These were in my mother’s stockpile.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not pretty as long as you’re neat and clean. This one would put most therapists into a dervish of ecstasy. Oh, how supremely delicious, my dear! Your mother actually said that to you? The damage to your self-image must be immeasurable.

No, but I do shower every day and tuck my shirt in.

If you’re bored, you have only yourself to blame. This from the woman who played Chinese Checkers through the dimly lit nights of the Great Depression, a bowl of popcorn and a few ripe apples by her side. She amused herself and expected that I do the same. It wasn’t the grown-up’s job to make the child happy.

I didn’t play with my kids. I sent them out to play.

Don’t worry. It will all be fine. Often said when it was very clear that things wouldn’t be fine. Like when her little sister died of a brain aneurysm at age 28, when my big sister had polio (she recovered), when we moved from our beloved home town to the big city, when my father’s business failed and he spent his nights selling TV sets out of the trunk of his car (no, they weren’t hot), when she went off on one of her countless trips to the hospital.

It isn’t always fine. But it is usually good enough.

Just do the best you can. This is what my mother did. Every day. Some days, because of her depression, the best she could do was lie on the couch and receive reports about school and give directions about dinner from her horizontal position. Sometimes, she did these things facing the back of the couch. Other days, she worked in our dime store from morning to night, supervising everyone, smelling lovely, with jellybeans in her pocket.

I don’t have the struggle my mother had. But I still pretty much do the best I can. Sometimes it’s pretty good. Sometimes it’s a mess. Oh well.

It was a comfort to me as a child that my mother didn’t think my problems were so important that she had to sit down and customize a response for me. I liked it that something from her all-purpose Mom Saying Inventory would suffice. That meant to me that my problems were not nearly as big a deal as I thought they were. I figured her mother had said the some stuff to her.

I liked that. It was a comfort to me.

2 Comments on “Listen to Your Mother – My Version

  1. Bad thing my mother used to say … but I loved it and still do.. oh go on and get it… the bills all get paid. I guess if you have a high paid executive husband like her!!

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