Friday, February 19, 2010

You Teach People How to Treat You

For the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about relationships. All sorts of relationships...marriage, sibling, parent, friendship, etc.

My recent contact with my extended family got me to thinking about family relationships. What is it that makes a family close??? What gives a family the desire and commitment to keep in contact and maintain a meaningful relationship outside of special occasions???

I can remember growing up we would get together with grandparent's, cousins, aunts and uncles but as we kids got older those times seemed to be fewer and fewer. Even so, our family was never the close-nit type.

Only in the past few years have I been able to get close to my brother. We grew up in the same household and only now 40 years later have we maintained a real relationship. My youngest brother is still hit and miss...we may talk on the phone once a year only at my initiation.

On a more personal level this is more what I was thinking about. As my mother was weakening with cancer and on her death bed I can remember not being comfortable at all with touching her or showing my emotion. I wanted to. I wanted to wrap my arms around her and cry. I wanted wipe her tears of physical pain. I wanted to get in her bed with her and snuggle up and tell her how much I loved her and how much I hated seeing her in pain. Instead, I stood around looking dumb not knowing what to do.

I WANTED to do all those things a daughter should be able to do for her dying mother but I couldn't. It was not the sort of relationship my mother and I had. It's not the sort of way she taught me to treat her. She may have even wanted me to do that and didn't know how to ask.....I don't know.

Growing up I can't ever remember my mother embracing me. As I got older she did manage to give me a stiff hug and a pat on the back every so often. Only in extreme circumstances did I ever hear the word "I love you" she did hours before her death.

I never doubted that my mother loved me. I don't think she was ever all that crazy about me, but she did love me as I did her.

When I had my son 21 years ago I decided I didn't want that cold distant relationship that I had with my parents. I wanted my kids to feel physical affection from me. I wanted them to feel natural and comfortable with me. I don't want to be on my death bed and my kids to feel if I am a stranger.

After all is said, I think back on my mom and I am glad that she was the way she was. If she were not, I could not be the mom I am today..


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