How To Listen Your Mother

“”Do you need a jacket?” My mother asked while sitting in front of her computer. “It’s supposed to be cold out.” This phrase is one that I’ve heard year after year. And with every year, the meaning has changed.


When I was told at two to put on my jacket I threw a fit. “But I don’t want to.” I yelled kicking my feet and whipping my head. “You need to or else we aren’t going outside. No coat. No snow.” Rarely did I ever concede so while I was flailing and crying my mother stuffed my arms through the coat sleeves. But once outside, all of the anger and sadness disappeared.


Next came my teenage years and this time I rolled my eyes and mumbled invectives as I grabbed my coat off the hook. I had learned from previous years there was no sense in arguing, because at the end of the day my mom would always have the last word.


Then in my twenties when the phrase escaped her mouth instead of throwing a tantrum, or rolling my eyes, I was just annoyed that she didn’t think I knew what was best for me. I saw her comment as a direct threat to my ability to care for myself. A questioning of who I was and my values, which made me second guess my own capabilities.


Now, in my mid thirties, I’m very different than the toddler, teenager, and twenty year old. My experiences are no longer my mother’s. And my unique experience has taught me how I want to see the world, how I want to interact and communicate with others, and how I want to live.


“I think you need a jacket.” My mother says again from her computer. And though at first I want to react and explain that I’m a thirty-four year old woman, who in her life has lived abroad, traveled the world, lived through loss, lived through joy, lived through financial uncertainty, lived through failure, lived through insecurity and doubt, through judgment and praise, I don’t. I don’t because I know that in my mother’s eyes, even though I’m grown and about to get married, to her, I’m still her baby.


I understand that while she is alive she is going to try to protect me from any hurt or discomfort. I know that she will always think she knows what’s best for me. And, you know what, that’s okay.


That’s okay because I now know why she says and does what she does. I put myself in her position and see from her point of view. All she wants to do is help. It doesn’t matter that I know I am no longer a baby, and that she can’t protect me from the world, or that she only knows best when it comes to her wants and needs not mine. It doesn’t matter that I want to learn what she already knows by trial and error, or that I’ll have kids one day.


What matters is that we get to make choices in how we spend our time. So instead of reacting and getting defensive, draining my energy making both of us feel insignificant in the end, I choose to see where she’s coming and say, “good idea, mom.” Not to placate her, but to show her I see her; I value her. And while it’s hard to see her point of view sometimes, all I know is that when I do, it makes me appreciate and look forward to the time we have together all the more.

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  • Marilyn Parker

    Thank you, Cynthia, for your insightful and beautifully stated thoughts! They are a lovely gift to your mother today !

    I am delighted to connect to you and look forward to more of your essays!

    Best wishes for your wedding!

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