When I was growing up I thought my mother had multiple personalities. I was ready to have her committed. The same rules never applied to my siblings and I and she literally seemed like a different person when she dealt with each of us.
With my oldest brother, she was laid back and fun, easy, breezy Mom. With my youngest sister my mother was tender and gentle. But when it came to me, my mother was a drill sergeant. There was no flexibility or grace when it came to curfew or rules, and any attempt at fun or playfulness ended with hurt feelings.
Why, I wondered, could she not treat us all the same? Didn’t she love me as much as she loved my brother and sister? In my heart I knew she did but throughout my teens years our relationship was strained. It wasn’t until I moved out of her house and got married that our relationship began to heal, and not until I had children of my own that I realized what caused her schizophrenia when it came to child-rearing.
My mother had three personalities- one for each of her children. With my brother she could be laid back and fun, because he was. He followed the rules, didn’t talk back and could easily laugh at himself. My mother could occasionally bend the rules with him because he followed them. With my sister, my mother could be tender, gentle and soft-spoken, because that is what Blair required of her. Whereas I always had a very strict curfew, my younger sister never really had one. She never got into trouble and was always where she was supposed to be. My mother became what each of her children demanded of her.
I was the least like my mother. I was born questioning authority, bucking the norm, and with my feelings on my shoulders. My first sentence as a toddler was, “I will,” which was my standard response for anything I had been told not to do. I pushed my mother, I always asked, “Why?” and I very rarely accepted a “No,” or “Because I said so.” I lied about where I was and who I was with, and got caught on a regular basis. I required my mother treat me like an army recruit in boot camp. She couldn’t afford to bend the rules with me, because the next time I asked for something I wouldn’t accept a simple “No.” I was relentless, strong-willed and wild.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the older my children get, the wiser my mother becomes, and the more split personalities I’ve developed of my own.
My oldest child reminds me a lot of myself. Aubrey is a red-headed spit-fire with emotions as delicate as butterfly wings. She has required I develop two additional personalities: Boot Camp Mom and Therapy Mom.
Boot Camp Mom has strict rules. The rules are always the same, they never change and they are never flexible. The more rigidly I require she follow the rules, the sweeter her disposition.
Therapy Mom practices reflective listening, “I understand that your feelings were really hurt when your Daddy washed your hair for you instead of letting you do it yourself. You are angry because you know how to do it. I’m sorry you are frustrated.” Therapy Mom spends a lot of time “hugging it out,” and never, ever laughs at anyone. Therapy Mom waits for her child to laugh when she does something silly, before joining in.
My middle child, Emma, is fun-loving, mischievous and always, always busy. She caused the development of Cruise Director Mom. Cruise Director Mom has a plan, and a list a thirty possible activities available at any time. She knows that down time, is destructive time, and is always on high-alert when Emma is quiet or missing for more than 60 seconds. Cruise Director Mom packs individual back packs of toys for each of my kids when we go on road trips and never leaves the house without crayons and paper.
My youngest, Sadie, brings out the very first personality I developed after becoming a mother- Crazy Baby Love Mommy. You know this woman, this is the mom who will make out with her baby at the check-out line at the grocery store, and will kiss her baby’s fat cheeks until her lips are chapped or her baby slaps her in the face and shouts, “NO MOMMY!”
It took me 32 years and 3 children to realize my mother wasn’t different with her children, we were different with her. In order to protect us and nurture us equally, she had to parent us according to our needs.
1 Corinthians 9: 19-23
Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!
Just as Paul endeavored to be all things to reach all people, we must pray for God to make us all the things our children need us to be. To help us draw out their gifts, their talents and strengths and to enable them to live their very best lives.
Copyright © Robin O’ Bryant, Moms of Faith, All Rights Reserved
Great article Robin. I never thought of it that way but you are SO right.