Happy to Be You

Happy to Be You

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Happy to Be You

The mother-daughter relationship is the most complex.
~Wynonna Judd

Most women I know have knee-jerk “Not me!” reactions when told they’re just like their mothers. If my husband, Bob, said, “Those slacks aren’t flattering,” I’d just go change. If my mother said the very same thing, I’d snap, “These are fine, MO-THER.”

There comes a time when we learn that most moms are not being any more judgmental than our best friends. But we often interpret a mother’s advice as controlling and meddlesome rather than helpful. What sounds caring and supportive from a friend can sound overbearing and insulting from a mother. It doesn’t matter how old we get. This seems to remain true.

Long ago while visiting my mom, we had a big fight. She waited until we were alone, then asked about my financial situation. She knew Bob and I were poor.

“We’re fine, Ma,” I said, dismissing her rudely.

“But that same old car keeps breaking down,” she said patiently.

I was embarrassed. Defensively, I said, “Don’t worry.”

“I do worry.”

The reality was that she wanted to help. But I took her concern as a put-down and felt that she was meddling in my business, where she certainly didn’t belong.

I stormed off to the same bedroom that I had as a little girl and, still acting like one, slammed the door.

I was fuming when she slowly opened the door and sat next to me on the bed. “If you don’t have enough money to pay your bills, we can...”

I interrupted and stood up. “I’m twenty-eight! I can take care of myself.”

Then she broke my heart. Quietly she said, “It hurts me when you’re unhappy.”

And although she had, in fact, said that before, I was always too wrapped up in my defensive anger to hear her. But this time, I saw her sitting on my bed with her hands in her lap and I realized that the look on her face was not one of condemnation, but of pure maternal love. It was a pivotal moment, seeing the situation from her point of view rather than mine. It was then that I felt her tender compassion and finally understood what a mother’s love means. It was then that I finally said, “Thank you, Mom.”

So, I think we should re-consider our mothers’ true intentions when we think they’re being critical.

When mom used to say she was unhappy that I lived far away, I felt smothered. But the reality was that she wanted me nearer. Is that so terrible?

And when she gently offered to give us money that day, my response was one of foot-stomping resistance. I thought, “You think I’m a failure.” But the truth was that she didn’t want to see her daughter going without anything. And my happiness mattered to her as much, if not more, than her own.

Bob and I have rules we follow when we argue. One is—no sarcasm. Another is—no mind reading; we need to explain what’s wrong.

And one was that he could never say, “You sound just like your mother.”

That’s no longer on the unfair fighting list because, if he said that to me today, I’d hug him, thank him from the bottom of my heart and tell him he couldn’t have given me a lovelier compliment.

~Saralee Perel

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