Lately, I've been startled by childhood memories that come flooding vividly to the front of my mind seemingly out of the blue. Not that my childhood was all that "startling"-- It was actually a middle-America, happy-go-lucky kind of upbringing, but bits and pieces of memories can bowl me over when I least expect them.
Like the time I was about 12 or maybe 13 years old and I called my mother a bitch. It was not my finest moment and was over something silly that revolved around me thinking I was the center of the universe, but under my breath, loud enough to make my opinion known, I called my mother a name that was not spoken in our home. As quick and sarcastically as the word passed my lips I tried to suck it back in faster than a speeding bullet.
It happened early one Saturday morning as she came into my room to wake me for dance school. Mom called me on my inappropriate action then never mentioned it again nor did she issue a consequence or punishment. It was the one and only time I ever spoke in that manner to my mother, but 40 years later, I still remember how bad I felt the second I heard myself being so hateful and ugly.
Why on earth I was reminded of that particular moment today is a mystery. It is not the first time I've remembered that awful exchange over the years, but the older I get, the more that moment breaks my heart.
I am nearly 53 years old, my mom will be 75 in a few weeks. Growing up, when any of her five children would act up, she very calmly replied that someday we would have our own children and get a double dose of our shenanigans in return.
Maybe that's why memories of less than shining moments from my past crop up out of the blue to haunt me. I did not have any children to get my "paybacks", for lack of a better word, even though mom was only joking and trying to calm tense moments when she'd promise us our comeuppance.
Of course that isn't why I choose not to have children but I wonder, when I hear harsh words spoken by a boundary-testing teenager or an overly tired and cranky child, if, as a parent, my past memories would melt into the kind of patience my mother continuously demonstrated with her five very head-strong, exceedingly loud and usually obnoxious children, which we were-- In between being perfect angels, of course.
I watch my sisters and brother parent their children with ease and hear them speak many of the same lessons my mother taught us-- almost verbatim-- And yes, they promise their kids "paybacks" when they have children of their own.
Like most kids, I hear my nieces and nephews test, taunt and torment my adult siblings just like we did our parents at their age. But when I'm in ear shot, I try to find a quiet moment to help them realize that words hurt-- and last a lifetime, so maybe they could choose their words a bit more carefully or just plain bite their tongue in the heat of a teenage drama.
That advice usually drop kicks me straight to the "old fogie" category, complete with big sighs, eye rolls and an "are you kidding me?" attitude-- The same way I'd have reacted to a twenty-nice cent lecture from an elder at their age, but I pass the advice on in hopes of sparing them the out of the blue, slap-you-in-the-face memories that have been rocking my boat lately.
There is no doubt that far worse words passed my lips as a child and teenager--hateful, mean-spirited words-- but the small moments are the ones that seem to pull at my heart the most. My mother and I talk several times a week despite living a few thousand miles apart. I can't remember the last time we had harsh words for one another and I am blessed by that.
My hope is that as we age the not so pleasant moments from our past will fade and our hearts will hold only the happiest and calmest of joys. Kinda sounds a bit Pollyanna but that's what I'm working towards.
Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com - Joanna Jenkin
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