My mother has informed me that her leg spasm was not, in fact, a result of my venting to her. She said this in both a detailed phone message (they are usually very brief, my mother is not a technology maven, so she really was stating and giving a message) and then again, when I spoke to her the next day. I appreciated her saying this; I take it as her way of saying: “keep bringing it on daughter, I can deal with your venting, I’m here to hear the venting, and I will continue in my role as Vent-Receiver-in-Chief, leg spasms or not.”
A good friend of mine has been telling me for years that not only is she unable to vent to her mother, but if anything, her mother vents to her. She is the ventee not the venter. While she can analyze why this is the situation, you can still tell that this pains her, she has no one with whom she can mentally curl up and be mothered. Most of her life has been that way: being the responsible child compared to her mother who needed mothering, and the responsible sister cum mother, too.
I think about this because the two of us talk a lot about our daughters and how we are interacting with them. (Her daughter is 17, and mine are 17 and 12.) It seems that the way we have been daughtered determined how we have mothered our daughters. My more laid-back approach surely is a reflection of my understanding that they know I will be there to catch them and to coddle their egos and bruised selves whenever necessary, because that has been my experience. But rather than think that she is better mother than I am (why, why do I do this to myself all of the time) perhaps her more intense involvement in her daughter’s life is because that is what she would have wanted—needed, even—and so she is giving her daughter what she was lacking. It is not that one style is right, or even better, but it suits our own experiences.
Perhaps there are parenting styles like there are body types. And maybe the whole nature vs. nurture argument is passé, since how we were nurtured was determined by nature (that gene pool that we got from mom and dad) which naturally resulted in a certain type of nurture.
My friend has told me that whenever her mother brings a gift for her home, it always comes with a companion doilie, or rather a piece of antique lace. The bitterness with which she talks about the doilies and her mother’s concern for not scratching the surface of a table is especially evident after a discussion of how her mother is, well, unavailable for venting. The doilie and her mother’s attention to it is what she would have liked. And so to ensure that her daughter does not have the bitterness from mothering that she has, she has become a doilie for her daughter.
My mother still insists on using coasters. Me, I never use them (except at her house, I don’t want to get one of her looks). If you get a ring you get a ring. Life goes on.
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