I usually write about my kids or being a mom, but today, on Mother's Day, I want to write about my mom. When you become a parent yourself, you see your own parents in a very different way. I always knew my mom loved me, but until I felt the intense, undescribable love I have for my own kids, I never knew how much.
Now, my mom and I have very different ways of parenting. As I reflect on my mom's parenting style, even though it is far different from my own, I realize it served my sister and me well. My sister and I lovingly joke that it is amazing we turned out normal because my mom was about as laid back of a parent as you can get. When you think of the term "helicoptor parent" describing moms who hover over their children making all decisions for them out of fear they might fail if left to their own devices, my mom was on the opposite end of the spectrum. She was more of the type to say, "Sure, kids. You want to fly a plane. Hop on in and give it a try." She might have intervened as we figuratively "plummeted back to earth" but more likely, she would have said, "You got yourself in this predicament. Now figure out how to get yourself out of it."
My sister and I both loved dancing (still do!). While other parents may make their kids practice, my mom never made my sister and me practice what we had learned in dance class. We just did because we loved it. As a dance teacher, I'm not advocating no practice at home. I'm only relating my mom's parenting style here. For us, no forced practices meant we had the freedom to create our own shows. We pushed the coffee table to the side, shoved the couch back, and pressed play on the Janet Jackson or Madonna cd. Before long, we had choreographed full routines to "Control" and "Vogue". By the time my mom got home from work, we had made tickets and programs to our show. She would hand us back the ticket we made for her, take her program, and sit down on the couch. Then the show would begin. How much more fun (and creative) is that than a forced practice!
Walking through the hallways of my daughter's school, it's clear to see all the projects with which parents have "helped". The perfect handwriting and the Pinterest-worthy craftiness are all tell-tale signs of a parent completing a child's assignment for him or her. What does this teach a child - that they are incapable of finishing the task on their own? I only remember one time that my mom did part of the work for me on a project. It was for the dreaded bug collection. I hate bugs! The idea of having to collect them and then pin them to styrofoam still creeps me out. She caught a few bugs for me, but I still had to research them and pin them to the board. Every other project that I did from kindergarten through my senior year, I did completely on my own. She didn't oversee the completion of these projects. It was up to me to know when they were due and turn them in on time. My mom sat up with me several nights calling out spelling words, but she never checked over my homework to ensure I had the right anwers. When it came time to apply for college and apply for student aid, I did both of those on my own too. She taught my sister and me to think for ourselves, not to rely on her or anyone else. My sister and I both have Master's degrees, so her hands-off approach worked well.
When my sister decided to open a dance studio as a senior in high school, my mom did not object. She didn't say that's a crazy idea or why don't you wait until you are older. She didn't tell her that it would interfere with her school work. My sister successfully opened a dance studio with my mom's support when she was still in high school. As a senior, I took over the studio when my sister went away to college. Again, my mom did not object. You might think that we did this because my mom was overseeing the operations of the business, but that was not the case. We took care of every aspect of the business - advertising, paying rent, paying the bills, collecting tuition, ordering costumes, organizing community performances, and hosting an annual recital. See those shows we had created in the living room turned us into little entrepreneurs. I'm sure my mom had fears that we might fail. Opening a business at any age is a scary endeavor. Allowing your kids to do so would be even scarier, but she never let any fear show. Instead, she let us try on our own. Fortunately, we didn't fail. It was a huge success. It paid our way through college, and we never had to flip a burger! Oh yeah, and I ended up going on to open a dance studio after I graduated from college turning my passion into my career.
Would I allow my children to do half of what my mom allowed my sister and me to do? Probably not. I would never let them move the trampoline close enough to the playhouse so they could jump off the playhouse roof to the trampoline below! (Yes, she did allow us to do that.) But, I thank my mom for allowing us to be creative, finish our own projects, and follow our dreams. She taught us to be independent thinkers, problem-solvers, task-finishers, and dream-followers. She taught us that our future is in our hands. You can't rely on others to create the life you want. So, maybe more parents should try the approach, ""Sure, kids. You want to fly a plane. Hop on in and give it a try."
Thanks Mom! I love you, and Happy Mother's Day!