I don’t know how old I was when I started bossing my mother around like I was smarter than she was.
Definitely when I became a mother myself:
“Why are you holding him like that? He doesn’t like that.”
“Please keep your eye on him.”
“Swaddle him like this.”
I’m not sure why I thought that I was God’s gift to mothering and she didn’t have any idea what she was doing. I WAS HER BABY. And–I think–I turned out OK. Aside from the bossy part.
We were in Florida last year, visiting my parents, and my mother and I took a drive to run some errands. I was, once again, telling her what to do and how to do it, and suddenly I stopped. I put my hand on hers as she drove and I said, “Why do I do that?”
“Do what?” she asked.
“Tell you what to do like you’re a child,” I said. I was sheepish.
She opened her mouth and a laugh pealed out like a bell.
“I did the same to my mother, too,” she said.
We had a laugh together as I remembered my mother telling her mother: “Ma, get up. We’re going to the store. No, you can’t stay home. Get your clothes on or you’re going in your nightgown.”
So I come about the bossiness honestly, it seems.
However, I feel like I should spend my time with my parents making memories and not causing any unpleasantness. I feel as though I want to bottle every second at this stage in our lives. I feel guilty when I am at all disagreeable, even knowing that no one is perfect.
When you have a child, whether you like it or not, someone is going to give you that “enjoy every moment” advice. Everyone knows that you can’t possibly do that, but you try, because they’re little for such a short period of time. They are growing so fast. It seems that you blink, and he is bigger. She is growing out of her shoes. He is learning a new skill. She no longer says, “Pick you up” or “I yuv you” and you didn’t get a chance to record it, because it happened so fast and you thought that you had plenty of time.
It’s only recently that I realized that this ubiquitous phrase also applies to parents.
Parents. Like the ones who raised me, and sent me to college, and still love me as fiercely as ever. The ones who rushed me to the hospital countless times for asthma attacks and pneumonia. The ones who cried for me when I was sad, and cheered for me when I was happy. The ones who loved me enough to give me rules and guidelines. The ones I talk to nearly every day.
It seems that our parents will be around forever. They don’t age, in our eyes. I try not to speculate on how many years I have left with them. I want my son to know them better than I knew my grandparents, three of whom died before I graduated high school. I have so much to ask them, and I sometimes feel as though I’m dashing to catch up.
I have started to ask my parents more and more questions–the questions I wish I had asked my grandmother when she was alive.
What were you like as a child?
What was your house like?
How did you feel about your parents?
What were your greatest accomplishments?
Do you have any regrets?
How do you make that pie we love so much?
Were you as worried about me as a baby as I am about my son?
What does it feel like to be a grandparent?
I look to my left, and there is my son, four years old going on twenty. He has grown an inch and a half in the last two months and has outgrown all of his shoes.
To my right are my parents, almost 69 and 71. I soak in all of their stories and their company, scrambling to stuff as much time as I can in with them when I see them.
It’s like trying to pin a wave to the sand with a toothpick.
And yet, I try. I try to enjoy every moment as best I can, while still being real and present. They deserve all the moments I can give them.
Kristin Shaw is a freelance writer, 2014 BlogHer Voice of the Year, and co-producer of the Listen to Your Mother show in Austin, where she is the mother of a mini Texan. You can reach her via Twitter @AustinKVS, Facebook, or her blog, Two Cannoli, where she writes about relationships, motherhood and love.