Making the Same Mistakes as Our Loved Ones
It’s 10:30am and the girls are still in their pajamas. Actually, I’m still in my pajamas as well. This is a little lazy, but only slightly out of the ordinary thanks to our comfy-casual dress code. The minute anyone hits the door it’s off with the pants and on with anything that has a forgiving waist band.
Normally nightgowns at 10:30 wouldn’t bother me, but today…today feels a little different. I guess I should also tell you that it’s officially the first day of our summer vacation. Well, summer vacation for the kids; for me it’s business as usual except that my sweet solitude has been replaced with sweet and sticky children. I was hoping I’d be able to perfectly balance working from home along with my children’s enrichment, but after this morning I’m beginning to wonder if pajamas might just be the Camp Haley summer camp uniform.
Camp Haley, where we can’t quite remember if your kids ate breakfast, incessantly argue about who ate all the chips, watch lots of aggressively loud cartoons, and spend most of our time feeling boooooored.
Times like these I have to ask myself, “What would mom have done?”
I’m pretty sure I know what my mom would have done though, she would have told us to go find something to do. Worse, she would have taught us a lesson by suggesting we ‘read a book’ which is fun no kid wants to have over summer break. It’s not that my mother was dismissive of her children, she just had too many of them. Most days it was an accomplishment to keep all her offspring alive, whether we were entertained was up to us.
Still, I know she regretted not giving us more one-on-one attention. Once I was closer to the adult end of life, she told me on many occasions that she always wished she had played more games with me. She’d say, “You always wanted someone to play games with you. I wish I’d said yes more often.” I’d like to have been able to say, “Oh that’s silly, I don’t even remember wanting to play games,” but I do remember! I remember I always wanted to play bored games and no one wanted to play with me. Now that I’m older and I’ve played bored games with my own kids I understand why she always said no, for the same reasons why I always say no, because sometimes I can’t and sometimes I really don’t want to.
Every time one of my children asks me to do something and I say ‘no’ when I could say ‘yes’ my mother’s regrets ring in my ears. I know I am making the same types of decisions, the same “mistakes”, and I know I too will someday regret them. You would think the lessons she learned might right me on my path, but when I step back and look at the decision to be just like her vs. to learn from her regrets I find that there’s a comfort in being the same “type” of mother she was. There is a closeness in making the same mistakes.
So far as my mother goes, her saying ‘no’ once in a while was probably good for us and, lest you think I’m complaining, we had some of the most amazingly creative, fun, and free-range summers a kid could ask for. But I shouldn’t bank on achieving the same results, my own circumstances are different and perhaps my kids will feel the effects. Irregardless, I know if I don’t do that crystal growing kit with my 8 year old, Evelyn, soon I will regret it.
It’s funny, when people die we often find ourselves doing the things they did in order to continue our bond with them. We take road trips, sky dive, volunteer for causes, adopt pets, live in houses, and behave in ways that allow us to feel as though we’re seeing the world through their eyes, feeling what they felt, and standing where they stood. This is hard for people to understand, even those who are in the midst of doing it, but I’d wager it’s more common than I even realize.
People tisk tisk and wonder how a daughter could become addicted to the same substance that took her mother’s life or how a father could take up the same high-risk hobby that led to his son’s death. These are extreme examples and my mother’s example is small, but I suppose the lesson learned is that for many the desire to be close to a loved one’s memory knows no bounds. There is no bond too large nor insignificant and although we typically think of ‘continuing bonds’ as being positive, perhaps we need to acknowledge there are times when it can lead us astray.
When someone we love dies, we search for pieces of them in this world. The fragments we find come in many shapes and sizes and when we find them we grab them up and do whatever we can to protect and nurture the qualities that remind us of our loved one. We lock them away in closets, we carry them in our pockets, and sometimes we take the fragments and make them a part of our very own being. And none of it is crazy.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a crystal growing kit to do.
If you’re concerned about how you’re dealing with loss or if you’re engaging in behaviors that are harmful, please see our section on coping.
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