I really love a lot about my mom, especially now that I'm an adult. I try telling this fact to the middle school girls who confide in me how much they hate their mother. "Yes," I say, the voice of wisdom. "You hate her now, but someday she'll be so important to you." I share a few details with them, the truly explosive period during my own middle school days when it seemed my mom and I would just as soon kill each other as talk to each other. "Parents are just learning as they go along," I tell the girls. "They want to keep you safe and whole, and they also have their own stuff to deal with. Sometimes it all comes together into a big mess, especially for moms and daughters."
Most of them deny that it will ever get better, and I just smile and assure them that I would have said the same thing at their age, or even at age 18. Age 22.
Then, it happened. My mom let me grow up. She decided that's enough, Elissa's an adult now. Either that, or she was just so preoccupied with my younger brother (who was in the midst of his own adolescence at that time) that she couldn't spare the worry for me as well. Or, as I've sometimes thought, maybe she realized in raising a wild boy how easy it was in comparison to parent such a sweet, intelligent, wonderful, self-sufficient daughter like me.
Whatever the cause, the result has been wonderful. My mother has perfected the art of silence when it comes to my life and my choices. She does not criticize my decisions or cast doubts on my parenting methods. She keeps quiet while I vent about my problems and doesn't give advice unless I ask a specific question. She refrains from telling me about her own methods in a way that would suggest they are superior to mine. She has never said a word about my cluttered, dusty home, even when she has shown up unannounced, with the house in a shambles. She hasn't asked when I'll be getting Monkey baptized. She hasn't suggested that I should really plant something in the empty flower pots that are sitting in the backyard. She never said a word about Jabber's potty learning schedule. She hasn't ever raised an eyebrow about me still breastfeeding either child, even though she weaned me at four months. She doesn't question my decision not to feed hamburger to my children. She didn't even really raise much of a fuss when I told her I was getting married on the other side of the country in a purple dress with my best friend officiating outside in the forest and no family invited.
I think I appreciate this most of all about my mother, and I sure hope this is something I can remember to do when my own sons are making their way into adulthood. I hope my middle school girls' moms learn it, too, so they can someday experience the joy of a respectful relationship with their mothers, as friends and equals.