Getting older is a humbling experience. Watching other people get older is sometimes equally so. I have an older brother who is almost nine years older than I am. When my parents divorced, I was only 3 years old. My brother moved with my dad and I stayed with my mom. I don't remember the divorce. I don't remember much of anything before the age of 5. As a result, I've considered myself an only child.
Now that I'm a parent with two kids of my own, I find myself trying to remember what it was like growing up with my mother. What was her parenting like? She wasn't overbearing. She wasn't domineering. She wasn't doting or overly affectionate, either. She was consistent. More than anything, she provided. A single mom—a secretary—raising a child on her own. It didn't seem like a burden to her. Things just were.
I didn't notice that we didn't have much money. I was fed and clothed. I seemed no worse or better off than any of the other kids. I had an Apple ][e clone. And then an Apple //c. When I was 14, we got a 386sx. I still have the 2400 baud modem that was inside that thing—a modem that connected me to bigger world. My mom did a great job of setting me on a path, a path that I travelled for years seemingly on auto-pilot.
My mom was a provider. There didn't seem to be any limitations to what she could do and she didn't put any limitations on me. With my kids, I feel that many of my decisions are more conscientious; I impart life experience onto my kids so that they can learn from my mistakes. My mom didn't impart her experience onto me. I know very little of what her perspective is and what it must've been like. She has, in her own way, made me think for myself. (And selfishly, often think of only myself.)
My mom never remarried but did find love again. She found a life partner and was with him for about 15 years. I feel bad for not knowing exactly how long it's been. Sadly, he passed away earlier this year. And yet, I did not feel that my mom would be unable to cope.
Indeed, she coped. She is still very self-sufficient. She is still a strong and capable woman. She has travelled nearly as much as I have this year, which is saying something. In spending more time with her this year, though, I have noticed that she does have limitations. She doesn't know everything. How did I go 37 years before discovering that she can't do it all?
My life isn't shattered with this newfound realization but it has made me wonder how I'll do things differently with my children. How much direction do I provide them? How much should they see the wizard behind the curtain? Should they know or even care that I'm fallible? ...that I'm not perfect?
For 35 years, I lived my life mostly on auto-pilot. I went through the motions of life without much fore or afterthought. Two years ago, I made a decision to be more in control and to set the direction of where I wanted to go. Having done so, though, I find myself more unsure of myself than I've ever been. What is it that I truly need to be happy? I don't know, yet. (And not sure why I waited so long to start figuring it out.)
I wonder if my mom ever felt this unsure.