Growing up, my mom wanted to give my brother and I the world. For the most part I would say she was quite successful at that. She gave us everything She let me see my first PG-13 movie in Theaters when I was only 12 (scandalous!). I had every toy and Barbie doll known to man. She even bought me a Furby, which I was elated about for a week – until it started to talk to me while I was sleeping and I immediately changed my mind. But my mom didn’t care. She just wanted me to be happy.
And I was. I was happy, responsible and well-adjusted to the special brand of crazy that my family had to offer. If growing up I had to describe my mom in one word it would be selfless. She did for others without ever asking for anything in return. For years that was all she did.
So, five years ago when my mom reconnected with her long-lost first love on Facebook, packed her bags, and moved across the country to be with him, leaving my Step-Dad and family dog behind, my whole family was completely flabbergasted. One third of marriages end in divorce, and this was my mom’s second.
This all went down while I was in college, and while I certainly wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of having my mother move from a two-hour drive to a four-hour flight away, I was absolutely excited at the prospect that she was finally doing something for herself. It was something that she wanted, and something that she deserved. No matter what anyone else in my family says, I know that my mom made the right choice for her.
When I had my daughter nearly two years ago, I didn’t realize what that would mean for my mother and I. If I had to break it down into a list, it would go something like this:
1. Sometimes I feel like the old married lady with a baby and my mom is the free spirit in her twenties.
Though my mom is a more extreme example, a lot of times middle-aged adults get to start over when they don’t have anyone living at home anymore. You even start feeling like one missing out. My mom is finally in a healthy and happy relationship and I’m home with a toddler. It’s like a real life Freaky Friday swap (except, you know, we stayed in the same bodies). Even though we talk on the phone weekly, I tend to keep up with my mom on Facebook. More often than not, she’s checking out some fun restaurant with her man, enjoying time at the beach, and bar hopping after 10:00pm. She posts photos of her and her super tan California friends drinking margaritas and eating fish tacos or checking out local dive bars.
My evenings consist of making dinner, cleaning peanut butter out of my daughter’s hair in the bathtub, chasing her around with pajamas while she yells “No pants!!” at me, and reading Curious George Visits A Toy Store multiple times until my daughter finally falls asleep. I’m usually in bed by 9:00pm at the latest, and the only time I have for Facebook is when I am peeing.
2. I often think “What Would Mom Do?” when a new parenting situation arises.
Now, whether or not I would do what my mother would do remains to be seen, particularly because I am much more familiar with her parenting style as a teenager because it’s a bit more fresh in my mind than how she parented when I was a toddler. Also because of her affinity for always choosing the pink option for little girl’s clothing.
What I can say is that when it came to important topics, my mom was always honest with me. I was always very comfortable discussing all of the taboo things like sex, boys and drugs with my mom. While I won’t say I look forward to these conversations with my daughter – because I want her to stay a baby forever and ever – I can say that I can appreciate how my Mother prepared me for that part of life. I hope to one day do the same for my daughter.
3. I also do things differently, like make health and fitness a family priority. She even made that change with me
I don’t say this to be mean, I say this because it’s the truth. And the truth is that when I was growing up health and fitness were NOT priorities in my family. Not because my family didn’t want them to be, but because they didn’t know any better. It took a few swift kicks to some special parts for everyone to get on the right track.
One thing I remember specifically growing up was how much I wanted to play soccer. My mom told me that she didn’t think I would like it because I got winded so easily and suggested I cheerlead instead. I did NOT want to cheerlead. The result? I did nothing. Except read Harry Potter and eat Doritos. I rarely played outside. This isn’t that uncommon, as only 25 percent of preschoolers are participating in child-initiated play. This is kind of just a fancy way of saying that kids today are not playing as much with their parents or caregivers. I was one of those kids, and I don’t want my daughter to be.
I make it a point on weekends to take my daughter to the local playground where she ADORES the sandbox and going down the slide over and over again. We also go for walks after dinner almost every night. So much so that on nights where we aren’t quick enough for her she grabs the dog’s leash and yells “Walk! Outside!”
I should note that note that I’m crazy proud of my mom, who ultimately lost around 100 pounds doing a mix of weight watchers and Zumba by the time I was in college. I’m happy that when I made health a priority in my life, she did the same and really turned her life around. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and it changed our relationship for the better in many ways.
4. I actively avoid staying angry at my mom. The little things don’t matter anymore.
I feel like fighting with your mom is inevitable. Regardless of the fact that you came from her womb, as you grow, you aren’t going to see eye-to-eye on everything. Maybe for you and your mom it’s politics… or whether red shoes are super class or super trash. Whatever it is, now that I am a mother, whenever my mother and I have a disagreement, instead of doing the teenage thing and avoiding her or letting it stew, I remember that I am a mom, too. My mom wants what is best for me, and I respect that. If we don’t think what’s best is the same – I acknowledge it, address it and let it go. The thought of my daughter being angry at me for any reason ties my stomach in knots and I can only imagine how my mom must feel whenever we have a confrontation.
It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized how much my mother would really influence how I parent. The good memories and the bad ones all serve the same purpose in the long run, and they are the motivating factor behind raising the happiest, healthiest little girl that I can.
Selfless and kind and living her bliss; my mom is a boss. I hope to parent with the same passion for life that she does, and I hope my daughter will learn to love our family’s special brand of crazy.
More About the Author
Jennifer Landis is a twenty-something mama, wife and writer. She enjoys drinking tea and practicing yoga on the reg, saying things like “on the reg” facetiously but so often she’s not sure it’s facetious anymore. And eating peanut butter straight from the jar. When she’s not writing or running you’ll likely find her trying to get pants on her toddler or, if it’s after 8:00pm, on her couch with some tea and a coloring book watching Dr. Who.