Dear Kahlil Gibran

kahlil gibran

Your children are your children, whether or not you like it. I’ve noticed the curious absence of parents in the wide range of topics you address. So on this Mother’s Day, 2012, I respectfully submit:

Your mother is not your servant. She is not your maid, your punching bag, your personal secretary or the ATM.  She is the source of your creation. The oxygen that breathed you into being. The spark that ignited your flame, the arms that cradled you, despite the futility of keeping you from harm.

She will try. And in the trying she may seem like a tyrant, standing between you and  your dreams. You will rebel. She will worry. Not because she is neurotic, intrusive, or hasn’t anything better to do,  but because you are a part of her on a cellular level. She will ask how you are. “Fine.” “What’s new?” “Nothing.” To your mother, “nothing” means lonely. Depressed. Your girl/boyfriend broke up with you. They’re turning off the electricity and you’re living on donuts from the CVS.

It is the inviolable nature of mothers to fight with you and for you when your safety is at stake.  And it is the nature of every child to push the limits even as they secretly long for sanctuary.

Be kind. It won’t kill you. Accept her concern as an expression of the deepest love imaginable-a love that is ferocious and will stop at nothing. She will worry herself sick. Bombard you with worthless solutions for problems you don’t have. You will reject her concerns and when that doesn’t work, you’ll push her away in which case she will ask why you always push her away which will lead to the “we need to talk about our relationship” conversation, at which point you will run away and join the Peace Corp.

It’s not your job to constantly reassure her that the sky isn’t falling, but if it does you’ll be sure to thank you for always reminding you to take an umbrella. The truth is, your mother can’t leave you alone because if she does, she may not see you again until Thanksgiving or when you can’t find your birth certificate or she’s in the nursing home with dementia, and then she’ll forget you were there.

You may think she needs to get a life, but trust me her life is full and not just with your imaginary problems. She’s exhausted from working and being there for her friends and taking care of your father or your sibling while volunteering, checking on her neighbors, and parenting your grandparents whom, by the way, it wouldn’t kill you to call once in awhile.

Give back, baby.  We’re not talking intimate conversations, weekend car trips or hourly texts. A simple five minute catch up will do.  If you want to really blow her mind, act intested in her life. “How are you -asking and acting interested-(yes, if you’re not interested, fake it. It’s called manners), buys you so much freedom you may even start missing her. If her stories bore you, especially the ones about what an adorable three-year-old you were, humor her. They are her stories, too. The remnants of her devotion. Beside, who beside her ever thought you were that brilliant? . Hopefully someday she will hold your child in her arms, at which point you will become totally irrelevant.

Savor your independence not as an act of defiance but as the ultimate treasure hunt. Finding your self is a noble and necessary pursuit. It stops being noble when it’s used as a weapon, defining yourself by rejecting everything she stands. Passionately strive for your what you believe in and just as passionately embrace the sameness: Your hands-an exact replica. Her grace under pressure that’s served  you in difficult times. How you sometimes hear her words coming out of your mouth.

Your mother’s love for you blindly eclipses reason. But it is love all the same that makes her  want you to have everything, whether or not you want it for yourself. Follow your path, knowing that her agenda is hope misplaced, however well-intended. It is not for you to fulfill her ambition, although you might hear her out; after all she has known you all your life. She will make mistakes. Just as you do. If she is humble enough to acknowledge her shortcomings, be gracious, for in doing so you will learn to ask forgiveness when you falter.

A day will come when your mother will no longer share this realm. You may need  to care for her as she did for you which will fill you with tenderness. You will miss her. You will even miss her telling you what to do. Hopefully you will part ways knowing you are eternally connected. And somewhere down the road, should you become a parent, you will understand when your child reminds you of you.

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