She came through the back door, removed her backpack and kicked off her shoes.
“Group therapy is intense.”
“What was the topic this week?”
For those who are new to this blog, my daughter is in grad school working on her masters in counseling. Since her group therapy class began three weeks ago they have discussed their issues with the counseling program, one another and now their mothers.
“There are a lot of bad mothers,” she sighed.
She paused and said, “It’s not so much the things they did that make them so bad, it’s their refusal to own up to them. My classmates’ moms’ versions of their childhoods make them wonder whose house they grew up in.” She paused again and said, “They’re the opposite of you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know how you sometimes apologize for things that were no big deal?”
“Yeah, that’s because when you hold your baby, you want her life to be perfectly healthy in every way – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. When I first held you, I resolved to do my best to give you a happy, healthy, gentle childhood, to do everything right. Now, when I look back, I realize that I could have done some things better. And when I think of those things, I apologize.”
As an aside, I’ll share one of my regrets right now, for the benefit of those who are still rearing their children:
I wish I had given her chores.
Looking back, I realize that doing chores gives a child a sense of competence. It builds a belief that they have something to contribute.
I didn’t give my daughter chores because, as a single mom, it was quicker and easier to just do it myself. I didn’t give her chores because she was always playing so nicely and quietly in her room and I didn’t want to disturb her creativity.
But now I regret not giving her the opportunity to feel like she had something to contribute, not allowing her to build an early sense of competence, and of being a needed part of the team.
So when we are driving along in the car and my thoughts go there, I apologize.
And she always replies, “But I am competent. And when I lived on my own I knew how to clean my apartment and my house.”
“I know,” I say.
It’s not the skills she is missing. She doesn’t appear to be missing anything, but I still believe there is something to be gained by doing chores as a child, and I wish it had occurred to me then.
Yesterday morning, as my daughter was unloading the dishwasher, we continued our discussion from the night before.
“I guess it comes down to this,” I concluded, ‘the difference between a good mom and a bad mom is not in the mistakes we make, it’s in how we handle them. When you love someone, their feelings are more important to you than saving your own face. So you apologize.”
It’s just too much of a double whammy to be deeply hurt, and then to have the person who hurt you deny it happened – or minimize it – making it abundantly clear that they love their reputation, their pride, their fantasy of who they are way more than they love you.
Love covers a multitude of mistakes.