If you have read my first book, A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: A Memoir, you have met all of my children: Cora, May, Elizabeth, Felicia, and Annie. This week’s blog circles around Elizabeth and a social incident I had with her during her middle years at home with my husband Sy and me.
When I was a little girl and starting out on this long road of learning to socialize I would eventually get my courage up to bring a new girlfriend home for an after school visit. We’d arrive on the big yellow school bus and then I’d bring my friend into the house and back to the kitchen where my mother was ironing at the
old ironing board or starting preparations for supper. I’d introduce my friend to my mother and she would say hello and then offer an afterschool snack. Mother would stop what she was doing, fix the snack, and bring it to the table, all the while making small conversation with my friend. Sometimes she’d even sit down with us as we ate and continue to talk to my friend. After a while I became frustrated, and I suppose jealous, that my mother was so easily social while I struggled.
After a few years I learned that I could bring my friend into the front hall, drop our books on the bench there, and race up the front stairs to my bedroom. In a bit I’d find out what my friend wanted for a snack and go to the kitchen to get it, returning with a feast in hand. I’d managed to bypass my mother and I still had my friend’s undivided attention.
Now let’s fast forward to my daughter, Elizabeth. She also had some trouble
learning the ways of making friends and entertaining them. She would bring a girlfriend into the kitchen to meet me. I’d say hello and how nice it was to meet the young lady and then go back to whatever I was doing in the kitchen, all the while allowing the girls to go about getting their own snacks. One day when Elizabeth was a junior in high school she came to me and asked, “Why don’t you like any of the friends I bring home?”
I was stunned. “I like your friends, Honey. What makes you say that I don’t like them?”
“Well, every time I bring a friend home you say hello and act like you’ve got too much work to do and so don’t say much of anything to them. It looks like you don’t like my friends.”
At that point I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think I chuckled and that made Elizabeth ever more annoyed. “Honey, there is a reason that I don’t spend a lot of time chit-chatting with your new friends.” And then I told her the story of feeling as if my mother stole all my girlfriends away from me until I figured out how to bypass her with the different kitchen routine.
I’m not sure if Elizabeth missed the point of the story or not but she replied, “But I want you to like my friends!”
You see, we try to cure the problems we had in our childhood so that our children won’t suffer what we suffered, only to find out that they want something completely different. It seems like we mothers can never win with our teenage children. Maybe boys are different. I only got to raise girls (see below) and later on, one grandson. What about you? Do you try to heal a sore spot in your history only to find that there is almost an opposite need in your child?