The girls were sitting on the bench, waiting for their turn to join their team on the field. It was a rainy, chilly afternoon. “There is my mom,” one of them said. “Where?” the other asked. “Do you see this woman in the yellow raincoat? My mom is right next to her!” the first one answered. The girl looked in that direction and put her face in her hands “Oh, no,” she whispered. “What’s up?” the first one asked. “That’s MY mom in the yellow raincoat. I don’t know what’s gotten into her with this neon yellow raincoat.”
My daughter doesn’t approve of my yellow raincoat. This is not the first time she’s made a comment about it either.
As we talked about it during breakfast I turned to her and said “I love this raincoat! Anyway, you can always see me when I’m there, watching you play. You can’t miss me!” She made a vague gesture and dismissed me. Got to go!
I was left wondering. How did I transition from the adored mother this kid couldn’t get enough of, to this crazy old woman in a yellow raincoat who should mind her place? When I ask her this question she pretty much gives me this answer: “Mom, you know how much I love you but I’m fifteen, can’t you see? I can’t help it!”
I know she can’t but the yellow raincoat stays. You see, I can’t help it either. I think it’s important that we both give each other space to be who we are. At this point in my life, I know who I am and I understand that she’s still exploring who she wants to be.
Being fifteen is all about fitting in and conforming to some kind of social maze. On the other hand, being fifty is about taking the journey back to the origin of the self. It’s about shedding the layers of identity piled on over the years and setting our wild selves free.
Exchanges like this make me realize how easy it is to lose ourselves as we try to please others and feel accepted and endorsed by them. I want to be loved, respected, and admired by my daughter but I don’t want to be someone other than who I am. It’s been a long journey to claiming self-hood. There’s no going back.
I know that friendship and love are often used by people to extract a heavy price. How many times, especially women, morph to fit who they are with, be it family, friend, or lover? Is this what love and friendship are supposed to be? Certainly not.
I was born to parents who expected perfection, albeit their version of it, and demanded obedience. They were strict and unyielding. I worked hard to satisfy and please people who weren’t meant to be satisfied.
I became really good at reading people’s moods and adapting accordingly. I became self-reliant at an early age. What I couldn’t get at home, I looked for in books, nature, and the wise mentors that seemed to always be there for me. I was blessed in that way. Life kept ushering me forward and I learned, at times the hard way, the importance of self-awareness and self-acceptance.
It is true when people say that our children become our teachers. As parents, we’re meant to love, protect, and guide them. Our children can help us make the journey back and untie the knots that keep us bound. And, that’s what love is, isn’t it?