This past week my oldest friend Lisa shared with me the following story:
Both of her daughters are enjoying sleep away camp this summer. They are gone for several weeks and during the mid-point visiting day, Lisa, in her enthusiasm to see her children (and display the impressive fitness prowess she has achieved during the last several years,) actually ran the distance from the car to the kids, reaching her youngest daughter first. Her boundless love and affection was met not with the outstretched arms of her baby girl but rather with a mortified reaction and an all too familiar: “MOM! YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME!!!!!!”
Ouch. I know that pain. It can be filed under the category: Things We Did to Our Parents and Now It’s Payback Time. And despite our recognition that this is a perfectly normal way for a tween girl to react when she sees her mother running across a field (apparently with a few very large shopping bags of goodies in tow) ahead of all the other parents, the rejection still hurts.
At this point, the parent has two options: The High Road or The Low Road. Clearly the High Road is the mature path. We are, after all, the GROWNUPS and should set an example that is free from the over reaction, drama and spite that permeated our younger years. Yet, at the same time, the Low Road beckons to us. We are, after all the GROWNUPS and should set an example that teaches our offspring that we are always right. A dilemma indeed.
After re-living this incident for a few weeks in her head, my dear friend opted to take….. the Low Road. Yup. Roger that. Completely with you sista!
Her approach to the next visiting day was to be the very last parent to arrive at the bunk. She vowed to walk in slow motion, and resist every urge to rush to embrace her kid. I suggested instead of this, she hide behind a tree until all the parents have arrived and emerge only when full panic has set in on her daughter’s face. Let me tell you – when two Jewish mothers get together and scheme ways to make their ungrateful children feel remorseful – the Universe shudders. I’m not sure we would ever implement such evil plans but somehow, fantasizing about the petty revenge we could pursue on the fruit of our loins was a salve to our souls.
It reminds me of a time not long ago when my family was going out somewhere and I believed strongly that it was going to get very chilly and jackets would be required. (For the record, many mothers always think jackets will be required but I am not one of those so when I suggest a jacket, I mean business.) But on this particular occasion, Noah disagreed. He would not need a jacket. I suggested he just take one and keep it in the car? Absolutely not. Apparently taking a jacket to keep in the car would have stopped the earth from spinning. But being the mother I am, I grabbed his jacket when he wasn’t looking and stuffed it in the back of the van.
Later that evening, I watched as Noah began to shiver. I kept watching , staring back at him when he came up to me and asked if perhaps I brought his jacket against his will? At that moment, I looked up to him from the Low Road and told him “NO, you said you didn’t need a jacket.” He bravely replied “you’re right” and continued to persevere. All in all, I think I lasted about 10 more minutes before I went and retrieved his jacket from the car.
The Low Road is an interesting place for parents to travel with respect to our kids. Its Sirens call to us now and again, and sometimes we do indeed step off the well worn path of maturity to play at the level of a 10 year old. It feels vindicating at the time, especially if you have dear friends to reassure you that it is perfectly okay to be there. But most of us find that the Low Road is a place where we can’t stay very long. Ultimately, it’s rocky and dirty and the risk of further pain is too prevalent. I know Lisa would agree. Just as we support one another as we stoop lower than we ever thought we would, so too do we owe it to ourselves to collectively seek higher ground whenever possible if for no other reason than it takes far less energy to pull our kids up than to drag them down.