This morning I realized that I have officially become my mother. This is not a bad thing. Like many parents, I often find myself repeating the phrases that my mother said when I was young, some of which she still says today.
There are the sweet things that she said, that make me smile when I remember them. Each night, before I shut off the light, I tell my kids, just like my mom told me:
Good night. I love you. I will see you in the morning.
Then, there are the snarkier examples. Like when my five year old asks me to get something for her, because she is busy playing or a show is on television.
Do you have an elephant tied to your behind?
Or, the response to the 500th question she’s asked today:
What do YOU think?
And then there are the serious things my mother used to say. I know now that she was trying to teach us about the world, about privilege, about giving back to others and our community. That she was trying to raise us to become kind, giving adults. I also know now that my mom worked hard to make sure that we never knew we were poor. That we never went without. That we always had food, clothes, and more importantly, a home, full of love, fun, learning, and hope.
The Cause: the shirt she wanted to wear was in the washer.
I explained that I would put it in the dryer so it would be ready for tomorrow, but that she had to pick out another shirt to wear. She wasn’t happy with that solution and TANTRUM.
I gave her three options (because, for her, more than three options are overwhelming). She then insisted that she hated all of her clothes except the shirt in the washer and threatened to throw all of them in the garbage. My response was classic “Steph’s mom.”
There are lots of kids who don’t have clothes to wear. Maybe we should take all of the clothes you don’t like and donate them to the kids that live at the homeless shelter?
She immediately picked out an outfit to wear. Score! Then, she said,
I have a lot of clothes. I don’t need all of them. We should give the clothes that don’t fit me to a little kid who doesn’t have clothes. Can we let the kids without homes live here? I have room on my bed by my feet…
As I listened to her detailed plans to end homelessness, my frustration with her tantrum became tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.
Some day, probably not until she’s my age, I will tell my daughter about how close we came to being homeless in the last year. I feel so lucky that we have a family support system to catch us when we have needed help. Until then, I will try to teach her small lessons about our imperfect world, about privilege and giving, likely using the same phrases my mom used to use.
Featured image: movie poster from the film Because I Said So, a phrase that I try very hard never to say.
Cute kid image: Steph, all rights reserved.