Friday, October 7, 2011

Letting go

It hasn't been an easy week. Some are--even in the middle of the kind of pressure-cookers we live in these days.  There are moments so good and memorable that I want to bottle them up like perfume so I can take them out later and get the whole scent of experience over again.  This week?  Not so much.  It's just contained the dirty, smelly work of relationships when the chips are down and brains don't function clearly and bodies don't do what they're meant to, and someone has to take the blame for all of it.  Because those brains and those bodies can't quite remember that this is--for everyone of us, if God keeps us here so long--the way things go, so it can't possibly be them who isn't remembering correctly. NO way, NO how.

I don't always act with the full measure of grace I wish I did.  Inside I get wounded.  Some people get angry.  But I'm too much my mother's child for that.  I learned that this week. Sadly enough.  In full measure.  And what a sleep-destroying revelation that was. Is.

Yes, I get wounded.  React like my mother at times.  Though, fundamentally--below the surface--I'm as little like her as I've ever been.  She took blame for her total being while I don't think my being is essentially wrong, though I sin and have flaws and...well, that's a broken record.

But here' the story.  Beve and I drove down to meet our kids for dinner.  Our very grown-up, lovely-to-behold, all-laughing-and-teasing-each-other kids.  J'd gone down to the girls' apartment the day before, and they're all driving over to eastern Washington today, so we met for dinner.  Had a great time, too. Talked about  the three living people we'd want to have dinner with if we could (YoYo Ma was one of mine, but only if he brought his cello for an after-dinner concert!).  It was a lively meal, for all that Beve has a terrible cold he caught on the airplane coming home from Indianapolis last week--dang those dang closed-in petri-dishes!.  Then the kids began talking their logistics for today's trip: when they'd leave, SK's work schedule, etc.  I made a suggestion, and it was batted down. Then another and it was also vetoed.

And then I said it.  "I just shouldn't say anything."  At least I think that's what I said.  Close enough, anyway.  I know I was thinking I should mind my own business, that it's their stuff, and I'm not a part of it.  But I forget, you see.  I forget I'm no longer the mother of children who need my help for every decision.  I still have those days in my head when I'd pack them and all the suitcases into the car, drive 45 minutes to pick up Beve before we'd head across the state for holidays.  I was in charge of absolutely everything back then. In total control.  Of them, and everything about them.  Shoot, mothers know more about their children than those children know about themselves.  That's the real story, isn't it?

But we raised them to be adults.  And now they are.  Of course.  And I am no longer in charge of their lives.  And most of the time I remember this.  Most of the time I keep it in my head that I can't--and shouldn't--interfere with how and why and what they do.  But sometimes old patterns come creeping in.  I'm too new at this--this stand back and watch them--self.  And, as my sister and I were talking last weekend, half the time these days, they're telling us what OUR plans are.  Now that takes some getting used to.

But that wasn't the part that kept me from sleeping.  No. The worst part was that when I made that, "I should just never speak," comment, was that my daughter said, "I hate it when you do that."  That was like a bolt of lightning.  Because right there at that table, was me.  My mother and me, I should say.  I said that very sentence to my mother more times than I can count.  Really.  And I meant it.  I loathed that my mother turned every small thing into a ontological statement of her worth.

It didn't matter in that moment that I didn't mean the same thing, that I was only reminding myself to stay out of their business.  It only mattered that to my kids, I was like my mother was to me.  I HATE that.  You can't imagine.

 But at 3 AM, it also occurred to me that perhaps my own mother, who really did have self-worth issues, was also (all those times) trying to remind herself to let us grow up.  And I never once saw it that way.  I only saw it as her trying to garner my sympathy, trying to get me to tell her she was okay, after all.  This morning, when that lightbulb went off, I finally did feel sympathy for my mom.  I did see it from her side.  It's no easy thing, navigating this new sea with adult, independent kids who make up their own minds and tell you when your ideas won't work--just the way you prayed they would.  She taught us to be adults too, and when we became them, it was hard.

But it also made me ask God to keep me from speaking such a sentence again. It's a knee-jerk thing.  Something unhealthy and, obviously ugly--for me and for my kids. If I need to be reminded to let them grow up, I should do it alone with God, not in front of them.  And simply keep my mouth shut. Learn to let them be.  Because, honestly, it doesn't go away that the last thing I want is for them to feel about me as I felt about her all those years.  The health of our relationship is still on me.  I'm the mother.  I still must let them go.