My mom shocked me over Thanksgiving.
Well, first, she hurt me. I don’t think she did it intentionally. She quickly said something right after giving her a gift that took me back to my childhood days of not being seen or heard.
And whew, boy, I bet the whole restaurant could feel the steam coming out of my ears.
She continued to talk as if nothing had happened, and I squirmed and huffed and internally raged.
I had to say something, or the rest of our time together was going to be ruined.
I calmly said, “Mom, I need to tell you that what you said after I gave you that gift hurt me.” And as calmly and succinctly as I could, I told her why.
Now, I was squirming before saying anything because historically, if I were to express being hurt by something she said or did, she would end up in tears. And then I would dutifully slide into the role of co-dependent and tend to her.
Growing up, my pain or hurt was always consumed by a need to tend to hers.
But this time she surprised me…
“Dee,” she said, “I’m sorry. You’re right. I can totally understand how you would feel hurt by what I said. Please forgive me. And thank you for telling me I know that’s not always easy.”
Now, if this were a movie, I imagine the entire restaurant coming to a standstill, a deep breath is taken in unison, and all heads turned towards the two of us for a full 5 seconds. And then music bringing the scene back to life and people doing the Lindy-hop on tables.
She didn’t defend, project, blame, refute or minimize. She listened fully and took responsibility for her part in the conversation.
My mom is 83 years old. She is continuing to evolve into the human she wants to be in the world. She’s still learning and growing, and so am I.
Together we’ve decided to rewrite the story of our relationship. To focus on what’s working, not on what either of us thinks is missing.
There’s a ton of stuff we disagree on. These last few years have made it even more apparent how differently we view the world. I’m sure she finds it just as frustrating as I do.
And yet, I have deep respect for her willingness to reflect and change her behavior, giving me the gift of being seen, heard, and validated.
And a great reminder that no matter your age, you can choose to grow and evolve.