I had one of those rare and inspiring mom conversations last night. The stuff of urban legends really. For me at least.
I like people. I like people in theory (unless we are in a confined place or standing in line or competing for finite resources) and in reality (same caveats), and one thing I love about our circle of friends is its diversity. Still, too often when the opportunity arises for me to sit down with another mom and to have an uninterrupted(ish) conversation, too often we speak only or mostly about our children, home improvement projects, or our husbands. I’m not saying those conversations are not important, because they are, and much of our lives revolve around those things, but sometimes it’s nice to have a different kind of conversation, whether that conversation is about ourselves without reference to being a caretaker, politics, religion, philosophy, science, or whatever.
Most of our friends are lawyers. That’s just the way it goes, and that’s fine. Despite what people say (most) lawyers are good people (not family lawyers). Most of our friends who are not lawyers have been friends since before law school, either from college or high school, or even elementary school, and a few other parents we’ve met along the way. Two of our newer friends are scientists, which is amazing, because we get to learn about things we don’t know much about, and our conversations have a new perspective.
So last night I had the opportunity to have an uninterrupted(ish) mom conversation with one of our new friends (not one of the scientists). We talked about philosophy. It was amazing. The conversation gradually drifted to parenting, because we are human, but even then, we talked about the philosophy of parenting, the philosophy of learning, the philosophy of teaching.
We talked a little bit about our childhoods and our parents’ childhoods and our resulting baggage and about the importance of accepting and dealing with our baggage and finding balance because of or in spite of it. For example, her mother struggled financially and experienced truly extreme circumstances, so when my friend was a child, her mother wanted everything to be easy for her, and made sure she always had anything she wanted. Now, as an adult, she thinks that was the wrong thing to do, because it made it hard for her to overcome difficulties and face challenges. It was interesting to hear her say that, because I don’t think of her as someone who has difficulty with that at all, and although I have not known her for very long, she always seems motivated and on top of things. When I thought about her as a parent, things started to make more sense.
I wouldn’t say she’s overly strict, exactly, but she treats her child almost like an adult, and expects fairly advanced problem solving and accepts no excuses. Her child is in several activities and appears to live a very structured existence, and although she still has time to play, it’s scheduled play and much of it is play with a purpose. “I’m teaching her the importance of hard work and that happiness and success do not come without struggle and persistence.”
She doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes her mother made. She wants life, in a sense, to be easier for her daughter (later on). I have my own opinions about whether her approach will be successful, but that’s not really the point, and it’s important to keep that in mind when we have these conversations, because things can go off course almost as quickly as when there is an element of competition involved. She wants to take the best parts of her childhood and fix the bad and she hopes her daughter will have a better life because of it. And it struck me that we are all doing some version of that – taking our baggage, sorting through it, and hoping it will allow us to find some balance in our lives, for our own sake, and for the sake of our children. Hopefully that will mean less baggage and more balance for the next generation.