I hope by reading this you can make this upcoming Mother’s Day a happier day for you (whether you’re a mom or a child) …
My mom was an incredible woman. She was loving and when I was a teen, all my friends loved coming to my house and sitting at the kitchen table with my mom. I was happy to share my “mother’s love” with them.
I’m not saying it was perfect – when I completed my Masters and moved to my job in Washington DC, my mom and I talked almost every week. She would usually ask me these 3 questions:
- Are you gaining weight?
- Do you need a haircut?
- Are you dating someone Jewish? (I didn’t want to get married and one strategy to avoid pressure from my mom was to avoid dating Jewish men. Therefore, she asked in the hopes I’d meet a Jewish guy.)
I was insulted (and hurt) when my mom asked me these questions – I was in my mid-20’s and it felt like she didn’t think I was mature enough to manage my weight, hair and who I was dating. When I was age 31, I was in a transformational educational program and realized that my mom’s concern was because she didn’t want me to be alone. When I realized that, I listened to each question as if she was saying “I love you. I want what’s best for you.”
I let go of the resentment and heard it as total love. That realization shifted my relationship with my mom. I call this “Generous Listening.” At some point, either she stopped asking or I stopped noticing.
My mom was my best friend. She always made time to listen, and I made time for her. We shopped and went on trips (London and Hawaii where we rode in a helicopter). We often went to movies, and I introduced her to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. By the end, she was talking over the soundtrack just like everyone else!
I had been dating Chuck three months when I invited him to meet my parents at my home in Washington, D.C. My mom’s first question was “You’ve been divorced twice. What makes you such a great catch?” My sweet mom wasn’t meaning it as an insult; she was vetting him! He basically answered that I was an amazing woman and he loved me, and she softened immediately. She, of course, went on to give her blessing once she saw how happy I was. He wasn’t Jewish.
Six months later, I moved to Dallas to get married to Chuck. My mom was hospitalized a month after I moved and told me to plan the wedding in Dallas and they would come to Dallas. A month later, I realized my mom wouldn’t be able to attend the Dallas wedding. I flew to Pittsburgh where my parents lived, and planned another wedding the week so my parents could be there. Most of the guests were family and their friends so I let everyone else spend time with my mom. I was coming back in less than 2 weeks with my husband to spend the weekend with my parents talking about the wedding.
That next Sunday, at the Dallas wedding, my brother called me at the reception and told me mom was slipping into a coma. I flew home the next morning and by the time I got to my parent’s home Monday afternoon, she was already in a coma. She died Tuesday afternoon and I never had that final conversation to talk about everything wedding. I wanted to share that with her. I am still sad we never had that chance. That’s been almost 24 years now.
I was so happy my new step-children (five of them from ages 15 – 25) got to meet her and so sad they didn’t have a chance to get to know her. My mom showed me the understanding and tools to be a mom, and I channeled my mom’s love with them and, in turn, with my grandchildren. While things aren’t always perfect, I know I would not be who I am as a mom without this incredible and loving woman.
A few years later, when my dad passed away, I saw a counselor to help me grieve my dad and my mother’s death. She told me in 30 years of counseling, she had never met anyone who came to see her because they totally loved their mom. Everyone came with regret. She shared with me that when our session ended, she was going to call her mom and tell her she loved her.
Here’s why I’m writing this…
As a relationship coach, many of my clients have a situation where they feel insulted or hurt by their mom or dad, or other family, a best friend, or someone at work…
Almost all of us have ways of thinking and acting that are emotional habits we created as children – I call them “survival habits.” For example, we learned to withdraw, act out, or get angry when we were afraid or hurt. Now that we’re adults, these automatic reactions prevent us from having the deep connections we desire with the people we care about. We literally push people away. And so does everyone else.
One of the skills that is critical to loving, intimate relationships is having a “Generous Listening.” Assume the best in someone when they ask you a question like “Are you getting fat?”. It’s usually not about you – it’s about them and their beliefs, expectations, and wounds. (I’m not saying don’t set boundaries; I am saying you and get curious why they said that. You don’t have to react.)
If you want to live from love and let go of the resentment, you can learn to listen with love to your Mom or Dad, or other important people in your life. You can create closer, more intimate relationships, and you don’t have to do it alone! I’d love to hear from you. We all need support.
P.S. Check out my Amazon best-selling book “Why did you load the dishwasher like that? 9 Whopping Mistakes That Push Love Away.” It’s full of skills (and mindset) to create loving relationship and ways to practice so you can begin to live them in your life.