When my kids were small I had a “No Phone at the Table Policy.” Now my 18 year old daughter has to remind my husband to put his phone away at dinner...Read More
What do children know about their parents? I mean, really know about them.
The thought was sparked recently when I mentioned to my 24-year-old daughter that I couldn’t wait for the weekend so I could begin to read the stack of books on my desk.
“Really? You’re into it?” she asked.
“I saw a Post-it on top of the books. I thought you were miserable about it.”
This is what she saw...
I had written myself a note, a reminder, to buy Stephen King’s book, Misery.
How often do misunderstandings like this happen? How often do parents transmit a message that is not true?
Years ago, I wrote about my 8-year-old son asking, “Mommy, when did you turn Jewish?” in an essay with that same name. Throughout his life, he heard my husband and I debate how religion should be expressed and explored in our home, and as a result, my child did not understand where I stood. He did not understand based on what he'd heard that I’d always been Jewish, and that I had a strong sense of Judaism. And so on Purim, when we baked homemade hamentash, he was confused, and asked me that question.
Just as easily, he could’ve wondered to himself, not asked the question at all, and not given me the opportunity to explain.
Over and over again, parents are assured (or warned) that if we are ourselves, our children will know who we are, whether we want them to or not.
But what if they get conflicting messages?
What if they only know part of a story?
I spent a lot of time researching this topic because now that I have adult children, I want them to know me, the real me, not some fake version, a projected, fantasized view that keeps me stuck in a specific role. I want them to know me with all my flaws and strengths and everything else that makes me human.
But there was nothing. I mean nothing. I could not find one article about this topic. No matter what sequence of words I strung together, every article I found focused on parents knowing their children, and not the other way around.
I found articles titled:
What All Children Want Their Parents to Know, Relating to Adult Children and The Bill of Rights for Parents of Adults.
Of course, it’s important for parents to know their children or, at least, attempt to, especially if you are interested in an intimate relationship; but why is it so difficult, or undervalued or maybe even taboo for children to know their parents?
My kids think they know me — and to a large degree they do. But I think they, along with children around the globe, fill in the spaces with their own ideas, create their own narrative, project and assume.
I’d like to change that.
I think this blog post is my first step.
It was after 11 a.m. I’d been up for hours and already had two cups of coffee. I’d read the newspaper and worked on a blog post. I’d cleaned the kitchen and started dinner. I’d gone to the pharmacy and the grocery store.
On my way to the dry cleaner, with a list of more things to do in my hand, my phone lit up. There was a text from my 16-year-old daughter who was still on summer vacation.
TEXT MESSAGE: The air conditioning in my room does not work at all and so I couldn’t fall asleep last night till 2 a.m. and I woke up 20 times in a heat flash.
SEPARATE TEXT: And I’m dripping sweat.
If I had written back based on my initial reaction, it would not have been pretty.
Do you know what I’ve already done this morning and how much I still have to do? You slept until noon (when I’m upset, I tend to exaggerate) and you’re complaining? Is that text a nice way to start the day?
But I also know I was triggered by her discomfort. Honestly, when things don’t go right for her, I feel it. I took a deep breath and reminded myself I’m not responsible for everything, and that I didn’t have to fix the situation immediately; we’d both survive.
Parenting is not science; it’s an art. Our communication doesn’t always go well; but on that morning, it did.
MY TEXT: Good Morning, Love.
No lecture. (Admittedly, there was a bit of sarcasm but tinged with affection.)
HER TEXT: Lol.
I’m getting great feedback on my blog name, From The Core. I’m glad I changed it. For a time, I was going to call the blog Fishelbee, which in my world means getting things off your chest. But fishelbee is an Arabic word, and is said in a guttural manner. Its connotation is more like verbal throw up than poetic expression, which I thought was kind of funny.
My daughter-in-law, Margo, said, “You can’t name your blog Fishelbee. When people see the blogger Leandra in the airport they point and say, there’s Man Repeller." (The name of Leandra’s blog is Man Repeller). "You don’t want people pointing at you and saying, There’s Fish.”
She’s spot on.
I adore my daughters-in-law. I have two. Margo and Jaclyn. During the summer, we live together in the same house in New Jersey. I can’t think of a better way to describe Margo than to tell you that she wears false eyelashes and killer high heels at night and performs autopsies for criminal investigations during the day. She loves dogs but hates fish. Especially betta fish, which are known to be aggressive and prefer to live alone. When placed in a tank with another betta fish, one usually kills the other.
Jaclyn bought a betta fish the other day. His name is Rex, he's blue and sits in a glass bowl on the windowsill in the kitchen. Unlike the betta fish, we (my two daughters-in- law and me) must live in harmony and so when Margo asks if she can flush the fish down the toilet while Jaclyn is out, I say no. When she opens the window and fakes a yawn with out-stretched arms, I cup the fish bowl saving it from a mighty crash.
Margo’s half joking because she wouldn’t really kill the fish. At least not without asking Jaclyn’s permission first; but she does think the fish and its murky water is gross.
Jaclyn, on the other hand, is more capricious. I can’t see her cutting a steak with precision much less a human body. She’s a dancer and a new mom. The dirty water doesn’t faze her a bit.
Living together can be challenging. We could complain. We could focus on how there’s so little privacy, how we can’t keep food in the house, how the kids wake each other up. We could nag about how our car was blocked in the driveway yet again and the kitchen is always a mess. We could nitpick. Fishelbee.
But we don’t.