I love my mom. She is the best mom ever. I admire her energy, drive, ambition, and want to be like her when I grow up. (She is 88 and I am 59). She still plays tennis, sells real estate, plays in the symphony, and is an elected official. Incredible, right?
“You’re Elaine’s daughter?” people would say when they found out she was my mother. “I love Elaine. She is so nice. I just love her…..” and on and on and on.
So what’s the problem? Good question.
My parents were married for 60 years. My dad passed away a year and a half ago. Since then, it’s like there is no buffer between us. She asks a lot of questions. About everything. And often, I don’t know the answers. And I get frustrated and irritated.
“I should be grateful that I have her. What is my problem? Why can’t I be nice?” I ask myself in a berating tone after I’ve been impatient with her.
We were driving to Pennsylvania for the weekend, just me and my mom.
“Jesse needs to buy sheets when he gets to Minnesota,” I said. My son is starting a 9 month reffing program next week and will be moving into his own place there.
“Why does he need sheets? What size sheets? Why didn’t he take my sheets? I didn’t know he needed sheets,” my mother said.
“Why does it matter?” I said. “Why do you even need to know that?”
“Because I’m a curious person,” she said. And the argument escalated.
“So I’m never supposed to ask you a question?” She said after a while with the Jewish guilt. “Fine, I won’t ever ask you another question if you are always going to get upset.”
“Mom,” I said, my voice breaking in frustration. “It feels like I’m a criminal and I’m always being questioned or criticized. Growing up I could never leave the house without getting picked apart. Why don’t you wear lipstick? Why are you wearing that? I never had confidence in anything because you never said anything good. Everything I did or wore got questioned.” At this point I was crying.
“Well,” she said. “Then you have got me wrong. I am a good person. I don’t mean you any harm. I compliment you too. I think you are great. I just want to know why you are doing something. I don’t mean it in a negative way.” And she continued to explain that she really liked to try to understand people and why they did what they did. She liked to know that. It made her happy.
And something changed in me. Maybe she wasn’t always thinking I was wrong or needed improving. Maybe she actually was just curious. Maybe I could give up being insulted every time she asked me a question and just realize she wanted to know me and my kids better.
I stopped taking her questions personally. It really felt different.
That conversation gave me a new mother. It wasn’t planned, it just happened because I finally said what I didn’t even know there was to say.
And, even better, my mother got a new daughter.