Dear Mom, You’ve “Hlepd” Me Enough
When my daughter Tamra was in first grade, she wrote the note in the title above. I was particularly busy and/or distracted and she was asking me to do something I just didn’t have the time to do at that moment. She asked repeatedly (you know how some kids are broken records when it comes to that sort of thing) so at some point I guess I just FIRMLY told her to stop asking. I wasn’t much of a screamer so my very firm answer probably scared her. She wrote the note and slipped it under the door. “You’ve hlepd me enough” was her way of saying with a bit of an angry attitude, that she didn’t need me after all. And, I suppose it worked out because she’s in her 30s now and just fine.
But, it makes me wonder — what is enough when it comes to being a parent? I know I’m way too much in everyone’s business, and a bit over-functioning as a mom. I send too many meant-to-be-helpful emails. I offer opinions when I’m not asked and give unsolicited advice despite the hundreds of times I’ve explained to my girls that no one really wants advice. And while I can easily identify my friends who suffer from the same affliction (I’d name you but you all know who you are), and swear I’m not as bad as they are, I admit I am an addict and could probably benefit from a 12-step program for mothers of adult children who can’t back off.
But, secretly — well not so secretly because I’m putting it on this blog– I do it because I believe I’m helping. I don’t think I’ve yet “hlepd” them enough.
I asked my daughters and two of them weighed in on this question: What do you suggest to us moms who may be confused about when enough is enough?
First of all, if anyone asks, I’m 21, so let’s just set that straight.
I think if you’re going to be an overbearing mother, and let’s face it, there’s a lot of you out there, you need to be prepared to have people annoyed with you. People don’t like to be told what to do, especially if they didn’t ask. Since I am not currently in an argument about something I didn’t ask for advice about, I am able to think more rationally, and sometimes I want the advice. I just don’t want it when it’s being told to me. I want to hear it, I want to complain about hearing it and get angry, and then later, when I’m ready, I can think about it and decide what to do. The fact that you overbearing mothers crave instant gratification is really not a realistic expectation.
My advice: continue to give the advice, but know when you’ve crossed a boundary, and don’t expect to be greeted with open arms and lots of gratitude, at least not right away.
When I’m in crisis, the last thing I want to hear is someone’s simple solution. I want to hear, “You’re right, your life is a mess, how do you go on each day?” not some rational “take action” advice, which I’ll probably do after I have a meltdown. I think if mothers are able to keep a good boundary, they might even find their children actually ask them for advice before they have to butt in.
I may have been a little premature to declare at the age of 6 that I had enough hlep. I think everyone always wants hlep, whether they think they do or not. Just don’t get too frustrated when you get hung up on or receive a nasty email about how you are ruining your child’s life and owe them for all of the therapy sessions they’re going to need.
Alexis writes: Judy Gold, a comedian raising kids with her female partner once said this about her children “I feel bad for my kids. I mean they have two Jewish mothers, wouldn’t you kill yourself?” But it’s hard, they’re mothers, are they supposed to just stand by and watch their children make horrific mistakes?
Giving advice is a lot like being a good comedian– it’s all about delivery and timing. I agree with Tamra that when children confide in our parents about things, we are probably (at least indirectly) asking them to weigh in about the issue, even if we don’t realize it. But even the best piece of advice can be misconstrued into the rudest comment if it’s not discussed at the right time. Tamra is right about instant gratification, mothers are not comedians who will be getting a laugh instantaneously proving that what they said was good. Chances are the closest thing to instant response the advice-giving mom is going to get is that abrupt hang-up.
We adult children want to prove to our parents we can take care of ourselves. But there are plenty of adult children who rely too heavily on their parents. It’s a slippery slope for us too. If we need your advice all the time are we really mature, functioning adults? Try to keep that in mind when you talk to us.
So, mothers, my advice is to weigh your words carefully to dispense your life lessons in a way that doesn’t make a person feel like if they don’t take your advice you’re judging them harshly (which you probably are but you can pretend you’re not). Try not to get too upset about putting us in therapy. If we have health insurance it’s not that big of a deal.
By the way, Mom, tell Tamra she’s not 21. Advise her about embracing her age.
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