“Instant availability without continuous presence is probably the best role a mother can play.” – Professor Lotte Bailyn
Reflecting on motherhood, the above quote really resonates with me. Our generation has often been accused of “helicopter parenting”, perhaps too many times circling around our Children, with a tight and noisy presence that was hard for them to shake. Sometimes I kept my circling pattern too tight. Reflecting back, the times that I was in that tight pattern, it really was more about my fears and worries and trying to keep control, than really about what my children needed.
As my children got older, especially my sons, I noticed an inverse relationship to my rapt attention to them. The more Interested and engaged I appeared in their lives and doings, the more they pulled back into themselves and into their shells, like tentative turtles. I found that a mild, nonchalant, bemused state of engagement, often got me better results in really hearing about the intricate details about what was really going on in their lives and minds, then a full-on engagement and uninterrupted enthrallment. Listening to their banter as I washed the dishes or paid some bills, barely glancing at my chatty children, was a much more likely scenario to glean golden gems of insight into my children’s psyches than wide-eyed questioning, face-to-face, in hard back chairs.
There is always that teeny bit of gratitude and relief when one of your adult children calls you from college or a lonely hotel room at a work conference, and in whatever subtle way, is asking for your advice and comfort. “Oh, they still need me,” is the joyous, excited thought that sends a warm glow from your heart to the rest of your body, as you prepare to listen and hear and convey your love. And then, at the same time, you quickly realize that you must try to temper your eagerness, to find a balanced, calm approach that will keep your grown children, open and trusting and connected to you.
“We have to bide our time and look for the moment of weakness when we can sneak back into their lives and they will see us and remember us for the people who love them unconditionally.” – Lisa See, novelist