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?

Tamra Writes:

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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12 Responses to “Dear Mom, You’ve “Hlepd” Me Enough

  • Delivery and timing indeed! Love Judy Gold too!

  • Great responses from your girls Deb. We all know that a mother will never stop worrying or try to give advice no matter what age their kids are. So, timing and delivery are great points. And sometimes we all need a loved one to vent to without receiving any comment or advice; just a pair of ears and a heart to listen. 🙂

    • “A heart to listen.” Exactly. It doesn’t have to be a parent, anyone who cares about us will do!

  • A long time ago , I read that all relationships can be classified as Adult- Child, Child-Child, Adult-Adult. And in our parent-child relationship, if we acknowledge growth and maturity, we will probably move back and forth through all of them.
    I am clear that at this point in my relationships with my children in their 50’s, that when we are Adult-Adult, life is wonderful. Now, I also recollect conversations where I am the child and my child is the adult. By acknowledging this, we can move on .
    I had a conversation with a young woman a few years ago where she adamantly refused to believe this could exist. And that’s probably why her 80 something year old Father can still tell her that he doesn’t like her haircut and she freaks out.
    I know that I can overstep my bounds as the Mother of very adult children. But my answer is always.” It’s in my nature.” Sometimes I bite my lip….most times…NOT. My children can interrupt me, tell me that I,m overstepping, laugh, grunt, sigh, not hang up the phone or just wait for me to finish.
    I now have 8 mostly adult grandsons with whom I am now engaging in adult relationships. They also know that Bubbe sometimes goes over the line.
    Not gonna stop. They will have many years after I,m gone to wish they could hear my voice again. Don’t mean to end on a maudlin note. My children are well adjusted, productive people and they have raised their children to be the same.
    With Mom’s help, of course.

    • I read and re-read this comment lots of times. Much wisdom there. I think I’m in that stage right now where my relationships with my daughters are somewhat fluid, just as you describe. Like you, nope, I’m not going to bite my lip too often. That’s not going to work for me! But also like you, I hope to reach that place with my grandson too. Right now, we’re in Adult-Child. But I’m not always sure who is the child! It is fascinating, though, to see our legacy through our grandkids. In some ways they are the truest reflection of the children we raised, aren’t they?

  • Thanks for your sharing this. I’m a guy and as a guy I always thought mums will always be mums and if you want your ”adult status” from your mum, you’re going to have to ”steal it” cuz mum will always try to keep seeing you as when you were a kid. I learned that in a book about the meaning of childhood stories. There is one about a little prince who’s lost his golden ball (representing his childhood) and it had rolled into the cage of a wildman (representing what our primal instincts). The wildman told the prince that the key to his cage was hidden under the pillow of the little prince’s mother and that SHE WOULD NEVER GIVE IT TO HIM! He would have to steal it!! When I heard this story and in the book it explained why your mum will never give you permission to be a man, that you have to steal it from her…. I had no idea that a lot of knowledge and psychology was passed through those child’s tale and it really made me think a lot about my responsibility in becoming an adult. Now you have 2 girls so I hope it steal clears it out a little…. One last thing… I know for sure then when my parents are doing to much I will for sure tell them… ”Mum, Dad.. it’s ok.. I got this…”

    • I love that story and have never heard anything like it. Which is surprising because I’ve read a ton of children’s stories. But that’s a fascinating perspective and I thank you for sharing it. “Steal it.” Just brilliant. That might even help some of us obsessed “Mums” let go a little.

  • PS: The book (I think) is called ”The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales”by Bruno Bettelheim. When I talked about this book (because I have talked very often about it!), I have been told , mostly by girls that they have read a similar one and it seemed to be as good but more ”feminine”.. I haven’t read that one but it’s called: ”Spinning Straw into Gold: What Fairy Tales Reveal About the Transformations in a Woman’s Life”
    by Joan Gould. Sorry if my answers seem to be so impersonal but this is a very complex matter you are exploring here so I thought it deserves somewhat more of a personal opinion about it.. Peace Out from Montreal!

    • Peace to you as well! I am definitely checking out the books you mention. It is complex, the mother and child dynamic. Nobody said being a parent or a kid was going to be easy. You know, like life. 🙂

  • This is a very interesting conversation and one a lot of us can relate too. It is good that you wrote about it because it causes us to think about it and evaluate our own relationships and opinions.

    My husband says, it is good to have an opinion, the trick is knowing when to share it. I need to keep learning that.

    The Blogger’s Pit Stop

    • Clearly, I need to keep learning that as well! Thanks for the reminder. Thank your husband too!

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