Do you see that tiny “dot” out on the water?
How about now?
That’s my cousin, brother-in-law, younger cousins, nephew, other cousins friends, and my teenage child…all out tubing on my cousin’s boat.
Why does that matter?
Because I realized tonight that my sister and I changed our family’s story. We are NOT our mother. We are changing the future of the next generation. We are NOT passing along our mother’s fear onto our kids.
You see, my mother was very sick with multiple sclerosis. By the time I reached puberty, my mother was in a wheelchair. She died before either of her grandchildren were born.
As a child, I didn’t understand—couldn’t understand—why my mother was so overprotective. I just remember feeling stifled and ashamed. There were so many things we weren’t allowed to do, normal childhood stuff. For example, my grandparents (my mother’s parents) lived on a beautiful, freshwater lake. And yet…we never learned how to swim. We went out on my grandparent’s pontoon boat a few times when we were young. Our father was ALWAYS with us. We even played in the lake water a little while wearing our lifevests…but my mother made it clear that she wasn’t happy about it. (My parents used to fight about it!) She didn’t want us in the water. She was afraid her children would drown in the lake…because we couldn’t swim. But how are you ever going to learn to swim if you’re not allowed to learn?
To this day, I still can’t swim. I took an adult swim class with my younger sister—the middle sister—but my mother’s fear is still with me. I’m afraid of the water.
My son knows how to swim. He’s like a fish in the water. Here’s a pic from when he was younger:
It was important to me that my son learned how to swim. My father remarried and his new wife, the only grandmother my kiddo has ever known on my side of the family took him out swimming for MANY years. My nephew is a fantastic swimmer! He’s perfectly comfortable in the water.
This in itself is pretty significant—our children are swimmers. We broke the chain of fear, but what’s equally as significant is the fact that when my cousin asked my kiddo and my nephew if they wanted to go out on the lake, it NEVER occurred to me to think like my mother, to allow my fear to keep my child from enjoying new experiences. I knew my child and my nephew were safe, that my cousin would never allow our kids to get hurt on his watch. It wasn’t even a possibility in my mind. They even had boat trouble…and I STILL wasn’t worried or concerned. They called from my brother-in-law’s cell phone. Ten minutes later, my cousin’s wife used their other boat, towed everyone back to shore, and they got the first boat moving again within the hour.
If this had happened to ME, when I was a kid, my mother would have had a FIT. She would have been soooo worried and upset. She would have overreacted. And back then…I wouldn’t have understood her. I would have felt ashamed. I would have thought she was unfair. But now that I’m an adult and a mother, I think I finally understand where she was coming from and why she reacted the way that she would.
Back then, my mother could hardly walk unassisted. She must have felt incredibly helpless to see her children going places she couldn’t. She couldn’t go with us. She couldn’t protect us. In her mind, I think it must have seemed safer to just keep us from doing anything that might hurt us—anything at all! It’s like wrapping your “good” dishes in bubble wrap and shutting them away because you NEVER want anything bad to happen to them…but with kids.
So yeah…that was my epiphany for the day.