Friday, May 08, 2009

Questions for a mother

When I talked to my sister earlier this week, she asked what I was doing for our mom for mothers day. I said that I was going to put it off a week, because our parents would be in town the weekend after Mother's Day, so what was the point of sending a gift  when I could just hand my mother one a mere week later.  "You know, like I am doing with your  birthday" I added. (We happened to be talking on Karen's birthday, she is coming here next week, and I am lazy like that.)

I still don't have a Mother's Day gift for my mom, but I do think I will use the excuse of Mother's Day to ask her some questions. Lisa Belkin posted these questions on the Motherlode blog. Belkin saw them in a recent issue of Real Simple (the original article, by Judith Newman, is available on CNN's website)

  1. What’s the one thing you would have done differently as a mom?
  2. Why did you choose to be with my father?
  3. In what ways do you think I’m like you?
  4. Which one of us kids did you like the best?
  5. Is there anything you have always wanted to tell me but never have?
  6. Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a mother now than when you were raising our family?
  7. Is there anything you regret not having asked your parents?
  8. What’s the best thing I can do for you right now?
  9. Is there anything that you wish had been different between us — or that you would still like to change?
  10. When did you realize you were no longer a child?

To be fair I will be willing to share my answers with her too. And with you, too. Some of the answers are about my relationship with her, others about my relationship with Ada. I imagine the answers will be different next year, and the year after that. Here is what I have now:
  1. I am sort of going to punt on this one - I think there is a lot I will wish I'd done differently by the time the kids are grown. At this point, the main thing I can think of is that I wish that I could more fully get over my own boredom and impatience with much toddler play and just do what Ada wants me to do, even when that is pretending to make pancakes for the 30th time this week. 
  2. I chose to be with Chris for a lot of reasons. I fell in love with him in college, and I remember thinking that he was, in a dating sense, above my class. He was beautiful and calm and sweet. (He still is.) I stayed with him because he is thoughtful, funny, a good cook, smart, athletic, tall and a bunch of equally important and unimportant things. Maybe we can wait until father's day to get into this more. (He's already blushing a bit.)
  3. How am I like my mother, or like Ada? It is easier for me to think about the ways Ada and I are alike: we are both very emotional, hearts-on-our-sleeves types; easily frustrated; easily amused;  love carbohydrates, beets and picking up flotsam. I hope I am analytic like my mother. My mother has often said that she and I are the "nice" ones in the family, meaning the ones most prone to do things to make others happy rather than act on our own desires. I am not sure that is more true of me than it is of Karen, we just express ourselves differently.  
  4. Right now this is easy - Ada is way more entertaining that the twins are. I think this question will get a lot harder in the coming years. This is the one question I am not sure my mom will answer, and I don't know what she'll say if she does. She and my father have been good about not playing favorites. To a great extent I think their expectations for my sister have been higher, so that might feel like they held back more with her, but I never felt like they loved one of us more.
  5. I wonder whether I will tell Ada how angry I am at her for refusing to potty train. (hmm, writing that in the blog might make that moot...)  Similarly, I would want to wait a long long time before telling the twins that while I was pregnant I was ambivalent about whether I should have tried again after Ada, whether it would have been better to just have one child. that seems like the kind of thing that it is okay for an adult child to know, but not something I'd want a kid to hear.
  6. I think there are a lot of things that are easier for me than they were for my mother. I had Ada at 34, my mom had me at 30. My age seems normal among my friends, but my mom was kind of an anomaly for waiting "so long" to have kids. Plus, my mother (the workaholic) no doubt had fewer resources to establish a work-life balance. My sister and I tended to see my mom as working all the time, even though she worked part time when we were little. 
  7. Nothing I regret not asking them yet. They are pretty open when I have a question and (fingers crossed) they'll be around for a while.
  8. Another split question. If I am telling my mom how she can help, it will be about helping with the twins and Ada. If Ada is telling me what she needs, I would guess that she'd ask for more of my undivided attention. And more dessert.
  9. For Ada, I wish I was better at giving her my undivided attention and hiding my boredom with some toddler play. For my mother, I think we have a pretty good relationship. Maybe I wish I was less concerned about what she and my father think of me and my life. 
  10. I probably thought I was not a child long before I really grew up. It's that first child syndrome - interact a lot with adults and you think you are one. 
M + B 
In part because I know a couple of women who have recently lost their mothers, and also because my cousins just lost their father, I have been thinking a lot recently about my parents and my relationship with them as a child and an adult. I have a good an honest relationship with my parents, but often we don't talk about big things because we are so busy discussing the details of toddler conversations or what to have for dinner when they visit or a million other important details of daily life. These ten questions may not be the only ones I want to ask, but they are a start.

How would you answer these questions? Tell me in comments or post on your own blog. (If you do the latter, let me know so I can check in to see the answers!) What other questions should I ask my mother? What would you like to ask your own mother?


  1. I do want to answer these on my blog I guess. Always looking for material eh.

    I guess the thing I might ask my mother is about the truth of the divide. It was so often my mom and my brother; my dad and I. I think I thought she was so close to my brother she was not close to me. But I think now there are lots of other possibilities

    Maybe she saw me as standoffish and close to my dad? Maybe it is just a different set of meanings in the word family? Maybe, likely, the truth is something I don't know.

    The truth about stuff is something I ask my mother for.

    ps. we saw twins stuffed back to back in the baby swing tonight. that is the cutest thing imaginable.

  2. I "missed" Mother's Day, so I did these on my blog a day late to make up for my delinquence.

  3. This was gorgeous. What a cool idea. I'm emailing the questions to my mom right now . . .


  4. Any time. If you want to share I'd be interested in what she says...