When I was young, my mother had the habit of placing the fingers of one hand lightly over my lips, barely touching the surface, when she wanted me to be quiet. The touch was so light, that the sensation lasted even after her hand was removed in the form of a funny little tickle that lingered annoyingly. I vowed at an early age that I would never do that to my own child!
When my oldest daughter was two years old, she was full of constant questions. It did not matter where we were or who comprised the audience, the questions poured forth from her lips like water from a natural spring. They simply could not be stopped. When we were in the grocery store one day, she was questioning non-stop about the various bright packages she saw on the shelf. “What’s that, mommy? And that? Why does that have a carrot on it? Why is that green? Why is that purple?” I was trying desperately to compare the labels on two products to see which was lower in sugar and sodium and her incessant questions were driving me nuts! I turned to my sweet, innocent child and lightly lay the fingers of one hand across her lips, with the most delicate touch, and realized…I was behaving exactly like my mother! When I removed my hand, my daughter - much more of her own mind than I ever was - immediately took the back of one hand and wiped her lips, hard, where I had touched her. Her eyes burned with frustration and I remembered immediately how I had felt. I could not believe I had done what I had vowed I would never do.
Sooner or later we will all do something we vow we will never do. I cannot be helped.
I don’t know if it is because we get tired and suddenly see our “forbidden” actions as the easiest choice, or if we run out of options and we see nothing else available to us, or we simply give in to the patterns that are engrained upon us through our experiences. Regardless, it is unavoidable.
During my oldest daughter’s adolescence/teen years, she constantly reminded me that I had too many rules, loved her too much, and that she would never have rules for her children because they were too restrictive and did not allow them to discover their true natures. (Later in life she informed me that her true belief was that if she complained enough, I would give up and give in. Where, oh, where does she think she got her stubbornness from?) My oldest daughter is now engaged to a young man who has a four-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. The little girl has very few rules when it comes to other members of the family – grandparents, mother, father – and when she comes to stay at my daughter’s home, she finds herself the only one enforcing any type of rules and consequences. She called me a couple of months ago, asking for advice on how to discuss with her fiancée the necessity for rules for his daughter and the consequences that would occur if she broke these rules. As I began to laugh, she repeatedly reminded me that the situation “was not funny.” I reminded her of her vows of no rules when she had children and silence descended upon the telephone wire. “All right, Mom,” she finally replied, “You were right. Now, do you think you can help me out here?”
Being right did not contain half the satisfaction as did the request for assistance from the mother who had once “loved her too much.”
Sooner or later, you are going to break one of your own vows. When you do, weigh carefully how awful a transgression it truly is before you are too hard on yourself. We learn from our parents. Sometimes we learn the things we don’t want to repeat; sometimes we learn exactly what we want to duplicate. Both are valuable lessons. However, if the things you don’t want to repeat are minor infractions that don’t seem too bad in the light of adulthood vs. the shady areas of childhood, then don’t worry too much about it. The fingers of the hand, placed lightly on the lips, and a system of rules and consequences are not really so awful after all.