Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Cognitive Dissonance?

Jody, at Raising WEG, has a great post about the disconnect between her memory of her childhood and her mother's memory of it, and worries that that same disconnect will happen with her own children. I worry about this pretty constantly myself. I have been known to do a reality check and ask my kids what they remember most. So far, I've been pleased with those memories. Geeky Boy, for example, doesn't really remember how sad he was when we moved here and how he would cry almost every night. And how I would cry almost every night as a result.

When I went to therapy in graduate school, I began describing some of the things my mother used to do. When I finished, my therapist said, "Sounds like she was a good mother." I was horrified. In truth, what I had described was the "typical" good mother. She made me breakfast; there were snacks after school. But what I was trying to tell her is that she went through the motions; she didn't really connect with me. She thought that doing these things would make her a good mother. But they made me resent her instead, resent that she didn't see that I needed more than snacks and breakfast. And, later, when I was a teenager, I especially resented the breakfast because it impeded my ability to be independent. I have never talked to my mother about how she remembers things. She never brings it up. She's brought up a few things about my infancy that make my blood run cold. I'm not sure I want to know about later memories.

My dad was not a perfect parent either. He was often absent during the times I needed him. So my mom was there, but not emotionally there and my dad just didn't show up. He actually brought this up himself once when I was in college. And I said, "Yeah, I felt like I didn't have a parent available when I was a teenager." And he said, "Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry. I'd do it differently now." Kind of hard to argue with someone who admits they made a mistake. I have a feeling my mom would respond with, "But I made you snacks every day."

I think I'm doing a good job as a mother. I'm not perfect. And I think if my kids later, said that I was unavailable (always on the computer!) then I'd probably agree with them. Sometimes you just don't know when your kid needs you. They don't always ask for help. You try to guess. You try. You keep trying. That's all you can do. And that's what I'd say. "I was trying. Maybe I didn't try hard enough." Sometimes with my mom, I didn't feel like she was trying.