This Mother’s Day, Let’s Applaud Our Amazing Offspring
“Mother, May I?” was a game we played as kids that we also played with our children. It reflected how we raised them. They had to ask our permission to perform certain tasks. It kept them safe and taught them values and manners.
Then, they grew up and no longer had to ask our permission to do (almost) anything—May I bungee jump? We’d rather not if you want our opinion, we might have said. Might I go on an exotic trip? Yes, may we tag along? Is it okay if I move in with my girlfriend? Are you serious, we probably wanted to ask but didn’t since we knew we’d get an eye roll.
All those hypothetical queries never precluded them asking our opinions. They still valued our thoughts whether they took our suggestions, we knew from coming back repeatedly to get our take. And that’s the way it should be between the generations. It also shows how much our kids want to hear our thoughts regardless of their age or ours. They appreciate us and our wisdom….most times…and we certainly appreciate and love them…all times.
All of this brings to mind the ultimate in showing Moms everywhere some appreciation and particularly on Mother’s Day. It’s a wonderful way for our children to honor us for all we think we’ve done for them through the years. But as we’ve aged and need few gifts, we value more time with them and a special card. We also want to shine the spotlight on them.
So, this Mother’s Day we turn the tables or pass the baton to focus on honoring our children. There are so many qualities we admire in them – their ability to juggle daily tasks of work, dating, maybe marriage and parenting, particularly at the height of the pandemic. They kept it together, more than we ever had to or did.
This is not to gloss over the fact that at times our adult kids drive us crazy, nuts, insane. We have disagreements and might exchange sharp words occasionally. Dealing with our grown children became a much bigger chapter in our last book, Not Dead Yet, than we expected because of our surprise at the challenges the stage presents. But we also learned something more, inspired by Alexander Pope’s comment, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”
It’s okay to agree to disagree, hug and make up, though not okay to say anything extremely nasty. The mother-child bond is too important to have it shatter over differences, so we tread carefully most times and try to filter out what might get us in hot water. Our filters loosen as we age we’ve learned.
We also like to shower them with compliments and tell them outright what we love about them rather than just share with friends, which our own moms tended to do. Those of us lucky enough to witness them parenting see how well so many handle their children’s triumphs as well as their tantrums.
Many don’t believe that each child always needs a trophy when they don’t come in first, second or even third, which our generation felt we had to do. They also know not to tear their hair out or scream when their two-year-old is having a tantrum by the check-out line after seeing all the candy their parents won’t buy. How we hated being that mother who got upset, grabbed the child from the shopping cart, left the groceries behind and raced out. Instead, they often simply say, “Not today, honey” and stick to their guns.
We also know that many of our kids and friends’ kids know how to draw better boundaries with bosses, friends, in-laws, even us and handle stress in positive ways, take good care of their bodies and minds, plan and schedule their busy lives both for work and play—we often neglected the play part at times.
They also seem to relate well to their spouses and partners with better communication skills than we might have had, aren’t afraid to ask questions of their attorneys and doctors and know they’re the “client” rather than just put those professionals on a pedestal.
We asked some of our friends for examples of what they admire and here’s what we heard.
Norma, a New York City mom and grandmother, says her daughters are both much better parents than she ever was. “I felt overwhelmed at times trying to be a good wife and mother. I didn’t give my daughters as much attention as I see they give their children,” she says. She adds that she did, however, pass on her kindness, generosity and empathy and they seem now to share these qualities much more than she does.
Marilyn, a mother and grandmother, loves how much her granddaughter is involved in trying to effect change in the world. Our generation burned bras and marched in rallies. But they have taken up the mantle and are running faster and harder with it. Marilyn says that her granddaughter is adamant about taking responsibility for actions, speaking out against injustice, educating herself and becoming involved in something larger than herself. “We are a broken society. Thus, I admire her so much for her political activism, and sense of care for the world and the earth,” Marilyn says.
Her granddaughter could sit on the sidelines and wring her hands. But no way. Marilyn says that her granddaughter, who attends college in Ohio, changed her voter registration from New York State to Ohio, where she felt her vote would matter more. She too marches in rallies and even made a big sign at one that Marilyn proudly shows us on her iPhone.
Karen, who divides her time between New York City and Rhode Island, does not have children. But was a surrogate grandparent to her brother’s children, and taught them kindness, empathy and leadership. “I was a consistent force in their lives after my brother and his wife separated--and a good role model.” She considers herself almost like a mentor to her brother’s kids who picked up the qualities Karen passed on to them.
Jill, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and is a mother, mother-in-law and grandmother, offers these pearls of wisdom. “My daughter-in-law is much better than I was in assigning chores very early and sticking to her rules about them. The children, who are now 6 and 9, put their dishes in the dishwasher, set the table, empty the dishwasher and clean up their toys at the end of each day, among other responsibilities.
“They have been doing this for years. I really admire ,” says Jill. She also has praise for her daughter who is the mother to a two- and five-year-old. “She is much better than I was at initiating creative projects whether it’s painting, drawing, coloring sand dollars, making cut-outs, working with molding material, or spinning imaginary tales where each child plays a part. She does this despite working full-time while I worked 60% time.”
X., Brooklyn, NY, explains that her son and daughter-in-law have two young daughters, age 3 1/2 and 1 1/2, and admires the way he parents. "My son does not get flustered by his daughters’ frequent interruptions when he’s working online at home. I would have difficulty remaining calm through unexpected interruptions. Also, I considered myself a patient parent, but my son is even more patient when his daughters put him to the test."
At the end of the day, we also know that we don’t want just one special day to appreciate our progeny. Let’s choose any time or day to tell them how special they are to us and how much we love them. Our children are a gift much better than anything we could possibly receive this Mother’s Day.
Happy Mother’s Day to all our loved ones and dear friends from multiple generations. And for the mothers no longer alive, we remember you lovingly and thank you for all you did for us and our offspring.