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I Don't Remember Mama

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I'm working on a theory that there is a meddling gene, and it skips a generation.

mother scolding her daughter

Beth Falkenstein: My mother was sort a sort of "hands off" type of mother. She never pried into my personal life and never pushed me toward any particular direction in any of my major life decisions. Some might say she was disconnected, some might say she was allowing me to find my own way. It would depend on which therapist you're talking to.

My mother claimed it was because her mother was nosy and interfered in all her affairs -- as a result she never felt she had any privacy. Therefore, when it came to raising her own children, my mother took the extreme opposite approach. All well and good -- and some of my friends probably envied my absolute freedom -- however there were times when I believe I could have benefited from some sort of guidance. For example, a little warning about Boone's Farm and vomiting would have been helpful.

The sorry upshot seems to be that when I think back on my childhood, my recollection is more of blindly finding my own way (and making a lot of regrettable mistakes) than of being coached along life's highway.

As can be expected, my own mothering style seems to be trending back toward that of my grandmother. I am always checking up on grades and homework. I tell them when I think they can do better, and try to show them how. I am the type to speak up if I disapprove of one of my daughter's friends. I may not be the favorite mom in the pack, but I guarantee you I'm the one they remember when they're thinking of cutting class ... or trying cheap strawberry wine.

Obviously, the best parenting style would be somewhere in the middle. But how many of us fall exactly in the middle? We're either more butt-in-ski or butt-out-ski. I have yet to meet the perfect butt-just-right-ski. And with that in mind, toward which end of the continuum is it better to aim our butts? Too much mothering or too little?

I guess my theory will have to wait until I gather more statistical data (a/k/a grandchildren) and observe how my daughters approach motherhood. Will they see how utterly perfectly they turned out and decide to model themselves after me? Or will they justify a more laid back style by pointing a resentful finger toward my hovering tendencies?

Either way, I'll probably be right there, proving their point.

next: Cracking the Teen Code
3 comments so far | Post a comment now
E. George Kerlie December 10, 2009, 12:53 PM

No self-respecting mom would have warned you about Boone’s Farm; she would have known that you were too mature to drink something like that (peppermint schnapps is another story, however). The real question is, was your mom so “hands off” that she would forget your birthday? And was your father so distracted by his British History Magazine that he, too, would forget?

Beth Falkenstein December 16, 2009, 4:07 PM

Neither. It’s when my friends forget my birthday that adds to my neurosis.

Teige May 21, 2011, 12:14 PM

Great thiknnig! That really breaks the mold!

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