§ We came to this world to LIVE OUT LOUD.
What my Mother’s Day Was REALLY Like (and what I learned from it!)
I’m really practicing authentic self-disclosure here. Even when it’s not so pretty.
And I will be generalizing a lot, based on cultural differences. This is just my experience. I don’t mean to offend anybody.
Here’s the thing – I was raised in a Ukrainian/Soviet/Jewish/Russian-orthodox family.
To give you a primer on what that means: there was a lot of love and a lot of dysfunction. Serious dysfunction.
There were also no boundaries with everybody (even strangers on the street!) butting into my business, criticizing, opining, and offering unsolicited advice. People were generous with negative commentary and skimpy on the praise. Anger was a very freely expressed emotion.
We emigrated to the United States when I was 8 years old and I lived surrounded by people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultural heritages. There was a lot of dysfunction there too and everybody yelled a lot.
Fast forward a decade and I found myself at an Ivy League School, full of refined rich kids from Anglo-Saxon backgrounds. For the first time in my life, I saw families where people actually held back their emotions, their anger, their advice. They didn’t have to finish everything on their plate because there were starving children all over the world and everyone was just so… POLITE.
Now I know we can say that perhaps there was some repression going on but I personally found the image of everybody being polite, respecting each-others boundaries and basically keeping a safe distance very civilized and comforting. It was such a contrast to how I was raised.
I know you’re probably wondering what on Earth this has to do with Mother’s Day but I’m getting there… and I have to set the context.
So, fast forward another 20 years – I met and married an Argentine and we had 3 kids together.
Now I don’t want to offend anybody but in my experience, and completely generalizing, Argentines are a lot like Ukrainians in terms of little boundaries with lots of unsolicited advice and butting into everyone’s business but generally more refined and used to good food and wine. They talk at very high volumes, get passionate and yell easily and interrupt a lot. They also love from the bottom of their hearts and are super devoted to family. Family comes first.
My husband and I have done tons of personal growth work, both individually and as a couple.
We have learned to speak to each other when we are angry without yelling, for the most part. We have learned to parent consciously and lovingly, except when we lose it. We are pretty good with boundaries, usually. And we talk about everything – the mundane and the deeply personal, emotional, spiritual and psychological.
And yet I somehow hold on to that polite, restrained Anglo-Saxon ideal as a benchmark of how I want my family to behave.
So now we finally get to Mother’s Day….
I woke up with plans of being pampered. Mother’s Day is a HUGE deal here in Colombia where we live. As it should be. Plus, my husband travels tons for his job so I often find myself single parenting. I feel like I deserve major pampering anytime he’s around but especially on Mother’s Day.
I knew he would bring me flowers and make breakfast and then take the kids to their activities so I could exercise, meditate and get ready for lunch. I knew he made surprise reservations for a fancy lunch.
Let’s just say that things didn’t go according to plan…
I did get beautiful flowers and some quickly scrambled eggs (without toast or anything to drink).
And then all hell broke-lose.
The kids were fighting non-stop.
My husband didn’t get off his laptop to deal with it. (He would probably argue with this statement but this is my blog post so I get to tell my version of the truth.)
It got physical between our 6 and 11-year old.
There was a lot of screaming and crying.
Our 14-year old came down to yell at her dad for not handling it and at her sisters for ruining Mother’s Day.
I tried to tune all this out but it was impossible.
I abandoned my meditation and went downstairs. I pulled the guilt card and told everybody that this isn’t how I wanted to Mother’s Day to go. A little shaming… but come on, they deserved it!
I quickly got ahold of myself and remembered that I was the grown up and had to model personal responsibility, etc.
I suggested that we have a family meeting because our way of talking to each other has degenerated.
There was a lot of yelling, squealing and whining going on.
And it wasn’t just the kids.
“Well, does anybody have anything they would like to say?” I asked.
Be careful what you ask for… everyone had plenty to say.
There were plenty of recriminations and tears. Everything came out – from “She took my cookie.” to “She is your favorite and I know it.” to “I can’t believe you didn’t get off your laptop to deal with this.”
We talked and talked. I didn’t work out. I barely got time to shower.
I had an individual heart-to-heart with one of my daughters because our relationship needed some work.
My husband had an individual conversation with another one of our daughters because their relationship needed some work.
Our six-year old kept saying “Can you all stop fighting? I am bored!!!!” followed by “Can you stop talking? I am bored!!!!”
It was really intense for over an hour and then at some point I realized that this was great!
It was loud. It was messy. We all had runny noses from all the crying (except for my husband and our 6-year old).
But we were in it, fully engaged and authentic and committed and loving each other enough to have these conversations. To make our relationships better.
To own our crap and validate each-others and our girls’ feelings.
To teach them that it was OK to express their emotions (without hitting or scratching or biting) and that we cared enough to listen to them and to make new agreements and to try to do better next time.
Human growth is messy. And sometimes loud. AND FULL OF SNOT.
But this Argentine/Ukrainian/American/Catholic/Jewish/Russian-Orthodox blend of a family is exactly who we are.
We don’t come from restrained cultures.
We’re not always polite.
We raise our voices and interrupt and sometimes get into each-others’ businesses more than we should.
It’s so far from perfect but it’s pretty darn good.
Our kids are thriving. They feel deeply loved. They feel safe enough to share their feelings with us.
My husband and I trust each other enough to share our parenting successes and failures with each other.
And to get into each-others business enough to point out when the other is falling short.
It’s our version of checks and balances.
So how did Mother’s Day end?
We hugged it out, got dressed super quickly in our finest clothes and went to a delicious 3-hour gourmet lunch. One of those that feels like an experience.
We ate amazing food. We laughed A LOT. We tried to get our kids to keep their elbows off the table and fingers out of their plates. We weren’t very successful.
We even met the chef who was the lead chef of Colombia’s Master Chef. My middle daughter, who is a bit celebrity obsessed, took a photo with him.
I went to sleep content last night.
The last thing I do when I’m in bed and I have already turned off all the lights is think of 10 things that I’m grateful for that day. Here was my list:
– My family.
– My amazing girls.
– My husband.
– That my kids are thriving and feel free to express who they are.
– All the personal growth work that we have done that has allowed us to move past the anger into compassion, love and deep communication.
– All the hugs and kisses I received.
– The flowers.
– The gifts the kids made for me, even my 14 -year old.
– The delicious food.
– That my husband still likes to surprise me after all these years and that he knows what I love.
– All the love in my life.
There were 11 things on my gratitude list last night. I am still grateful and glowing today.
What about you? What have you learned from life’s imperfect moments?
I invite you to answer these questions below. I would love to get to know you!