Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Hi, Me.

I'm answering five questions from Julie Pippert at Using Your Words. Here are questions four and five as she gave them to me.

4. What do you appreciate about your relationship with your children and what do you wish you could change?

5. If you were to mentor a young woman (say college age or thereabouts) in what area would you mentor her and how would you guide her.

These two questions tie themselves together in my mind, as my children are two daughters, now forty and forty one, so I sailed with them through that age range. 'How did you mother' and 'how would you mentor' are pretty close to the same question although mentoring young women not your daughters is in many ways easier than dealing with your own. (Speaking from experience, here.) They're less likely to think you know nothing, for instance.

The thing I appreciate is that I do have a relationship with my daughters, a good one. The phone rings and a voice says 'Hi, it's me'. Although they are not and do not look a bit alike, their voices are very similar on the phone and so my stock answer is 'Hi, me.' And we laugh. It's a ritual. They might be phoning with an invitation to dinner or lunch, with a request for babysitting or a mock plea for help ('I need to sort out my closet. Come and help me?') Or just to chat or to talk something over. They enjoy family meals chez parents on occasions like Thanksgiving, they come out from the city for a day to walk or cross country ski or help their father in the woodlots. And I haven't had an argument with either of them for a very long time. We laugh together when we are together.

I'm almost fatuously proud of both of them. They're clever, athletic and well spoken. They have amazing careers. They're funny and thoughtful and good citizens. 'A credit to you' would have been the comment in former generations. But they've really done it themselves, capitalized on their opportunities, worked hard and intelligently. If I could change anything it would be the old 'mother instinct' thing -- I wish they didn't have to work so hard to succeed, take crap from time to time, have problems. I would remove the pea from under the pile of mattresses, bumps from the road, stress from their lives. Except that they seem to thrive on stress. I well remember my mother carrying on about how hard I worked at that age, how much I had to do, and I remember thinking she was making far too much of it. So I keep my mouth shut (or try to), even when they are up to their asses in alligators.

My mothering when my daughters were small consisted mainly of supplying them with opportunities to learn, both about themselves and about the world around them, providing them with clean clothes and snacks, taking them to hospital when they broke something, and keeping an eye on them. When they turned into teenagers I continued to do these things, sat through their drivers' tests and restrained myself from screaming or laughing at inappropriate moments of teenaged angst. I also delivered occasional lectures which were received about as you would expect. Although the YD, in particular, used to turn up when she was in her twenties from time to time and say things like 'Remember when you told me drunken women were repulsive? Well, you were right!' Validation. Hah! I lost my temper with them about the usual number of times, threatened them with hanging by their thumbs from the clothesline more than I should have, and loved them. A lot.

As for mentoring -- I always felt that you do that along with the mothering. Life skills 101. I told the girls many times that they needed to learn a skill with which they could support themselves (boys are always told that, aren't they?) so that they never would need to batten on to some man to look after them. I would give a young woman the same advice today, but with a different emphasis. Too many young women (and young men) find themselves, after they graduate, locked into a job that demands a huge investment of hours and effort and erodes their private and family life. I hate it that young women seem to have to put off having children until they are established in their careers. To fix that we need to change the whole corporate ethic in the 'developed' world. But in the meantime, girls, in particular, need to develop a range of skills and interests so that they can look after themselves (and more easily juggle career and family) without getting locked into either a high pressure office or a series of low paying jobs.

I hate to see 'college age' girls so preoccupied with a boy friend that they neglect the benefits of things on campus such as late night bull sessions, cultural events, volunteering opportunities or sports. And they should run like a rabbit if the boy friends want them to curtail their educational choices and activities. I also hate the sexual flaunting and risky promiscuity that are not new (I went to University in the sixties!) but seem to be more widely publicized if not practiced. I still think drunks are disgusting. My major mentoring advice would have to be that a young woman not let herself get talked into doing anything she really isn't sure she wants to do, whether it is a course choice, sex or a stunt on a motorcycle. To learn her strengths and apply them. To stop worrying about things she doesn't do quite as well. And to expect to have to be flexible.

I'm presently reading a book of essays by Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson, where she writes in an essay called 'Somebody's Baby'
Who really understands what it takes to raise kids? That is, until after the diaper changes, the sibling rivalries, the stitches, the tantrums, the first day of school, the overpriced-sneakers standoff, the fist date, the safe-sex lecture, and the senior prom have all been negotiated and put away in the scrapbook?
She's right on, but what I would add to that is that the scrapbook only contains material pertinent to the kids you have raised; it doesn't make you an expert on child raising. The best I can say is that I had really good material to work on and that I didn't screw up.


  1. That was beautiful and wise, Mary G. You can mentor me any time!!

  2. So lovely. Your love for your daughters is clear and true and not smothering.

  3. so great. I hope I can write about my daughter with such love and joy when she is 40.

  4. OK, that was so smart and right on that I want to have buttons made that say "Mary G for Prime Minister." Did you see the report that came out yesterday on why Canadians are having fewer children. It touched on so many of the issues you raise here about corporate culture.

  5. Jenny, but I am so out of touch! I have (gasp) great nieces in university at present, and the granddaughters of friends, and I look at things like their facebook entries and don't have a clue!
    SM, thanks. I tried not to push their heads down too much, having had a very anxious mother myself. Good to have an opinion that I suceeded.
    Maypole, you will!
    Mad, yes I read about that and it was in my mind as I was writing this. It's something I feel passionate about but I don't have a clue where to start fixing it. The most hopeful thing in the article was the comment that the youngsters now coming of age are less inclined to put up with it.

  6. "I hate to see 'college age' girls so preoccupied with a boy friend that they neglect the benefits of things on campus such as late night bull sessions, cultural events, volunteering opportunities or sports"

    this is so true. i wish more women (and men) in this age group would volunteer more in the community. they are so needed.

  7. Mary G, I am another Mary G. I love your blog and what you said about your daughters. I am so happy to find you; I was looking for other grandmother bloggers.

  8. What else I wish I had asked (LOL) is whether you feel more at peace about your children, now that they are "raised up" and "grown up" and a bit of relief, or if you worry the same amount (whatever degree that is) as you ever did.

    You mention biting your tongue when they are up to their asses in alligators, and I can hear the care and concern, and your pride, which shines the same light.

    One thing about mothering young kids is worrying so for their future, all while reassuring myself and looking at all the evidence that they will be OKAY. But that's ahead, with no guarantees.


    All in all this is awesome. I loved you beautiful points about mothering, mothering your daughters, and mentoring. I knew you'd have something good for that.

    I agree sloppy drunk is unattractive, girls shouldn't invest themselves so much into valuing themselves through other people and their work (and neither should men, although they seem to do less at the former) and I share your concerns about soul-sucking jobs. (Hence my Widows of Architect Husbands Support Group, LOL)

    Just awesome. I'm so glad you did these.

    P.S. I can't your girls read your blog?

    Using My Words

  9. Oh, yes. I sure do! Also, 'Am I doing it right? And when they meld into their peer group, you have to worry about that. Looking back, I can see things I could have done better but also see the things that worked. And the YD gives me a critique on things from her point of view from time to time. She seems to think she was raised okay, all and all, and that's the main thing. Mothering is not logical. And we mothers have all been taught to distrust our intuitive skills. Instead we get recipe books for raising picture perfect kids. I don't even cook from recipe books, myself. There is no one 'right' way. And, yeah, no guarantees. But if you could set criteria and get a guarantee that the grown woman would match it, would you? More fun, for me, to watch the green shoot and the bud and speculate about the flower.

    As far as I know, my family does not know about the blog.