Published in The Ferndale Record, March 27, 2013
I used to be ‘that’ mother. The one that yelled the loudest from the stands for her kid on the field, the one that clapped and hooted vigorously after every child’s performance, the one that gushed and cooed over every ‘participant’ ribbon my children brought through the door.
When it was a trophy or winning award, the air oozed with gusto that could easily suffocate everyone else in the room. Exceptional examples of schoolwork or first numbers scrawled on a napkin were stuck onto the refrigerator for months.
Everyone knows parents who fall into the hyper-enthusiastic category. I thought prolonged cheerleading was how one motivated offspring, and didn’t know any other way to express the abundance I felt.
Then some time ago I discovered how embarrassing my antics had been to one of my children. This cut deep and hard. In the name of encouragement and parental zeal, I’d humiliated one I love.
I used to be ‘that’ mother, and inside my heart of hearts, I still am. I’ve toned it down, which is not a natural state for me, but curiously, especially as the mother of adult children, it’s revealing. Maybe it’s simple maturity or something like it, but robust hollering from the sidelines has been replaced with perspective and gratitude.
Recently, my son and daughter-in-law invited me to Boston for a visit. I got to spend a few days with their family, see them in their natural habitat, and observe the life they’ve built since their move from Seattle last summer.
The entire trip could have been me shouting from the stands. “Oh, this is wonderful! I love this house! What adorable children you have! This city is amazing! WOO HOO!” I could hear it all rumbling around in my soul. When we drove past Fenway Park, I’ll admit to a somewhat sedated outburst. I just couldn’t help it.
Then, right before the flight back to Seattle, I visited my son’s office on the 14th floor with a spectacular view of the Boston skyline. I saw his name on the door and felt that tug again—the one that wants to gush.
I saw the pictures of family on his shelves, the awards he’s earned, and quite suddenly I felt like he’d just brought his first finger painting home from kindergarten. Only this time, I had no words, no overwhelming ebullience to express. It caught in my throat, and the only thing I could feel was joy.
As he drove me to the airport I told him what a great job I thought he was doing with his family, his life, and that it was lovely to witness. He laughed and said something like, “And this from a mother who thinks everything I do is great!”
“No,” I told him, “It’s more than that. You love your wife and children and they love you. Your kids feel safe and want to be with you. You are building a happy life. I’m telling you I can see that.”
I’ve figured out that it’s not so much about me being a frenzied proponent as it is about loving without agenda, guile and ego. When I do that, my tendency to emote gets swallowed up in pure joy.
I still bubble over occasionally and probably always will. But there’s more satisfaction in subdued observation than I ever would have thought. Gravy days for sure!