In a sentence…
By phone today, in kindness, one of my mom’s neighbors said, “Your dad must have been the nurturing parent.”
That’s given me Great pause. Neither of my parents were the epitome of the gooy, sticky nurturing parent. I felt supported most of the time. Sometimes I felt both my parents overreacted, and recall examples of both of them ‘freaking out’ over things I, at the time, thought were inconsequential. Sounds kinda normal.
My mother went to battle, in a serious way, with the principal of my intermediate school over several things in the almost two years I attended the school. When I asked my mom, as an adult, why she didn’t get excited when I hurt myself, she said, “I didn’t want you to get more upset.” At the time I took it as indifference. She sent me to summer camp for 10 years of my childhood, telling me she didn’t take vacations in order to make it happen. I had no way to understand what that sacrifice meant. Those summers were the best days of my childhood. She taught me to crochet and let me perch 10 feet off the ground in the big pine that grew next to our deck. She let me grow a pot plant when I was a teenager.
Dad and I would watch The Sonny & Cher and Johnny Cash Shows and we did puzzles together. It was our thing. He taught me how to handle rifles and to carve just about anything you want to serve for dinner. He held my hand in the hospital when glass was surgically removed from my foot with, what I still recall as being, pink pliers. My artistic and tactile streak, as well as sewing machine obsession, come from my father.
They took me sailing most weekends. We hunted mushrooms in our regional park when we weren’t sailing. We camped. I was included in many, many adult activities. I was treated like a small person, age appropriate, but certainly not coddled in the “hot cookies after school” sorta way. My folks both worked full-time.
In all this reflection, I am left wondering if my challenge handling the foibles of my mother’s decline would be less difficult had she been ‘that nurturing parent.’ I see other amazing adult children with their cognitively impaired senior parents and hope I am living up to their example of love and devotion. While I have learned what to let go of in the moment, it takes conscious effort at times. After concentrated time with my mom I find I need to unload and decompress (mostly to my husband) and am left wondering, without self-judging, if that’s part of every adult child’s process or just me and those like me. It’s not easy 100% of the time.