Advice or Meddling? Guidance or Interference? A Parent’s Dilemma!

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Oldster’s love to share their wisdom with others; especially their own children, and experience does provide new insight. If you don’t learn from history, you or your posterity are bound to repeat the same mistakes.

I recall writing a letter to my oldest daughter before computers came on the scene. I admit I sometimes waxed poetic and a bit philosophical. Her response sizzled with anger and sarcasm. “Is this some more of your good advice?”

I was stung and surprised. What had I said that offended her so much? Did my efforts to help come across as meddling or had I actually “hit the nail on the head” and brought her up short?

I will never know. Her rocky start into a difficult marriage finally ended in divorce, but not after bearing five beautiful children.  We never know how our words will impact others because we cannot see into their minds or know what they’re going through at the time. That’s what makes relationships so doggone difficult.

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Sometimes our children actually ask for our advice. I always tell them “You’re the only one that can make that decision, but I can tell you what helps me when I have tough choices to make;” then I bloviate about taking a sheet of paper and writing PRO on one side and CON on the other, followed by a list of the positives and negatives about each choice and an evaluation.

To tell you the truth, I’ve used this process most of my life and it seems to work quite well. Whether my children actually follow this method is another matter. I remember the wisdom my mother shared when I married at age 17.

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“You’re on your own now. I don’t want you to come running home whenever you have a problem. You and your husband should work out your differences together;” sage advice that served me well.

Did I resent her “meddling?” Not in the least. I knew that she was right. She had married at 16 herself and knew the obstacles. I accepted the fact that there was no turning back. The only thing that hurt was that she had closed the door on my youth.

Our job as parents isn’t to coddle our children forever; it’s to send them off into life prepared for the difficult decisions and dangers that lie ahead. It is to help them learn how to be independent. Children who must talk to their parents every day in order to make hard decisions are not equipped to survive the rigors of adulthood.

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Teaching your children to be independent and to accept adult responsibilities is a lonely job. You may not hear from them as often as you would like. Their preferences and life styles may be far different from the ones you would have chosen for them. Their political and religious persuasions may contrast sharply with your own. The only thing that keeps you together is blood, shared memories, and if you’re lucky love.

I take pride in my children’s accomplishments. They have used their talents and interests to provide fulfilling and interesting lives. They are helpful, kind, and hardworking. What more could a mother want?

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Relevance – Who Matters Most and Who Matters Least?

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Four generations

Four generations

Society deems some people relevant and necessary while others are irrelevant and of lesser importance. The uneducated, the downtrodden, and the so-called dregs of society found in prisons or sleeping on our city streets are in the latter category. Labeled as un-useful, a burden to others, and a drain on public resources, they are often ignored, uncared for and unloved.

For many years, motherhood was frowned upon. While I was raising a family of six children, I often received scathing glances from those who thought I was nothing more than a “baby machine,” even though each child was wanted and adored.

Today being pregnant is “fashionable” and “trendy,” especially for the jet set and the famous. If the mother-to-be is unwed or impregnated by a boyfriend or from artificial insemination, that’s even better. The starlets sport their growing bellies with pride; such compassionate women, these, burgeoning goddesses ripe with fruit, about to replenish the earth.

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My grandson, Andy, the day before his wedding.

In the sixties, the world was on the edge of disaster from “over population.” Fear fed the rumors that food and commodities would become scarce. There was no room at anyone’s “inn” for more children. Abortion was the answer. Millions of Einstein’s, Beethoven’s, and potential writers, artists, and scientists were crucified on the altar of convenience, ideology, and false premises in the name of freedom and women’s rights.

Although the tables have turned once again, the abortion mills are still running at fever pitch. Motherhood is having resurgence, but it is promoted by single mothers in diverse circumstances and applauded by gender blended families. Traditional family’s where a mother and father are actually married and celebrate the birth of each child is going by way of the dinosaurs.

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“Mother and Child” Brush Drawing available at http://carol-allen-Anfinsen.artistwebsites.com

The role of wife and mother has also changed and frequently disrespected and unappreciated. A woman’s role of wage earner is valued at the expense of motherhood. If too much of a woman’s time is devoted to family, her career may be in jeopardy. After taking time off it is difficult to retain her before-maternity-leave status.

I remember well feeling like a slug – a non-contributing member of society. The Equal Rights Amendment battle was in full sway. Like other young mothers, I was torn and confused. Even in marriage my writing ventures and the time spent were belittled and viewed as a waste of time until I started earning money. Then the hours I spent at typewriter and eventually keyboard were given respect.

Stay-at-home moms were taken advantage of in so many ways. I remember thinking that my husband, my kids looked right through me. I was invisible – unnoticed until someone else’s needs were ignored or neglected. Then a wave of whining and complaining woke me out of my doldrums.

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“Lady in Waiting” oil on canvas; Prints available

This became distinct and clear at a school Halloween Carnival. We had three children and one in the hopper. We waited in line for sloppy joe’s and drinks. I helped the younger children and made sure they had napkins and utensils. By the time we sat down, I discovered I had forgotten my own. “Heavy with child” and reluctant to get up again, I turned to my husband and said. “Would you mind getting me a fork and napkin?” He looked at me with cold eyes and said: “Get it yourself,” which I did.

Later, watching them play games through the classroom window, father and children, I said, trying to buoy myself up, “See you’re not invisible. I can see your reflection in the glass.” I looked down at my arm and pinched it between thumb and forefinger. “See, you’re not invisible, I can feel that pain.”

I’ve never felt so low and unimportant in my life. Talk about irrelevant! Sadly this was the beginning of the end. A downward spiral that eventually led to divorce; but not before two more children were born and I realized that things were never going to change.

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“Does this hat make me look fat?” Pencil drawing

What a sad commentary on motherhood; the sacred creation of life. Instead of floundering at the bottom of the food chain, motherhood should be at the top. Without it society would become non-existent. The foundation that held families together in the past is now missing in action. Mothers are not there when their children come home from school. Lessons of the past are considered obsolete or old-fashioned. The values and virtues once revered are mocked.

Many people view pregnancy as simply a biological result of sexual relations; an unfortunate accident. The fact that parenthood might be part of a joyful plan is considered immaterial. Where will it end?