By Lydia Rueger
A couple of years ago, I read Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle. Walls describes her childhood, raised by non-conformist parents who moved frequently, slept in cars, couldn’t keep jobs and generally had trouble functioning under society’s norms. As a mom myself, it was sad to read about these intelligent, creative, well-read adults, who could never quite pull it together to adequately provide for their four children. For every hardship the family faced, these parents would say it was “just temporary,” yet nothing ever improved.
I assumed that parents such as Walls’ had no positive role models themselves, until I read her second book, Half Broke Horses — a true life novel about her grandmother’s life. Walls describes her mother’s mother as an extremely hard-working, resourceful provider who rode her horse 500 miles to accept a teaching job at age 15, ran a ranch, raced horses and learned to fly a plane, among many other experiences.
What happened? Was the grandmother so relentlessly hard-working that her daughter vowed to lead a responsibility-free existence, regardless of the cost?
Does the younger generation always try to improve upon their parents best efforts, only to discover maybe things weren’t so bad after all?
I thought of my own family. My mother always seemed hurt that her own mother, in her estimation, didn’t invest a lot of effort in her as a young child. As a result, early childhood was the time she poured her best efforts into my sisters and me with handmade Halloween costumes and creative birthday party games. These are good things, but, as a child, I remember thinking that all I wanted was someone who would treat me like an adult… someone who would ask me how I was feeling, share my frustrations and just understand what it was like to be a child. Of course, my feelings were not my mother’s fault and I have no doubt she did her best. But perhaps her best was not what I needed most, and maybe the same was true in the Walls family.
Building from my own experience, I try to empathize with various concerns in my daughter’s 6-year-old world, but she often doesn’t want to talk about them. And, because she is a different person than me, I’m sure there is something she wishes I would do instead — that I’ll find out about in 20 years (probably, that I spend too much time typing on the computer. If I ever start to blog daily, be concerned for my children).
Hopefully, whatever my misguided efforts happen to be, they will not drive my daughter to a life of sleeping in cars or digging through the trash for food. I can only try to meet her where she is, attempt to clue in to her needs and remember that hers are not my own.
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Jenny is passionate about the important role of mothers in modern America. She believes the role of moms is often overshadowed by popular culture values… like the spotlight we place on celebrities and the celebrity lifestyle. Jenny wants moms everywhere to understand they are celebrities to their Creator.
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