Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Good Fight

I never had a fight with my mom.  I was a desperately shy teen, not prone to outright rebellion.  I was also the oldest of five kids so combined with my introverted nature, I was a little mama's girl.  My relationship with my mom was very positive and she was a huge influence in my life.  Even with a very positive parental figure there is a fairly big part of me that is filled with self-doubt.  I am slow to confront conflict or even broach subjects that will air disagreements.

The question of how my parents fought came up in a conversation the other day and I realized that I had never seen my parents fight.  Then the more important and personal realization came that I had never fought with my mom.  The woman who I frequently describe as my source of unconditional love had never been tested.  She died very young, as I was just starting my post college life.  What would she have said if she knew that I went over a decade without attending a church?  Marched on Washington for reproductive rights?  Shared an apartment with my fiancee?  Would our relationship have remained as strong?  Would I have withheld parts of myself from her?  Would she have continued to love me and support me in the same deep, meaningful ways?
Boxing Generic copy
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We can worry about how we speak to our children.  We can try to avoid shaming or imposing our own agenda on their lives.  We can use our most "bestest" good listening practices.  When push comes to shove though, we need to be honest in our relationships, including the ones with our kids.  That means that they will know our opinions, our hopes for them, and our values, and at times, we will most certainly disagree.  Even if we completely blow it and use every "should" and "ought to" phrase and lecture them on what they REALLY need to be doing or feeling, all is not lost.  The disagreement or the full out fight may be the loudest piece of the scene but it  isn't the most important.  The most important part comes when we circle back around (an hour, or day, or month later) and remind them that the love thing is unchanged.   They may not believe us right away but we have to put it out there.   It's what makes for a "good" fight and it can never be in doubt.

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  1. This post reminded me of that Anna Quindlen essay, which I thought you would enjoy. Here is a link to a place you can find it (I hope it works!):


  2. Thanks for sharing that, I had never seen it.

  3. Wow, eltee... I almost could have written that first paragraph myself. I was also the oldest of 5 kids, introverted, & close to my mom. I also can't remember seeing my parents fight... and I also tend to avoid conflict. I wonder if there's a connection?

    I'm sorry you lost your mom so early. My feeling is that you WOULD have continued to share with her, and she WOULD have continued to love and support you even if she disagreed with your choices. Interestingly, my own mom didn't approve when I had male roommates in college or when I later lived with my boyfriend (then fiance & now husband), and I know she and my dad were disappointed when I left the Catholic church. However, they never stopped loving & supporting me.

    I love your advice about the most imporant part of a fight, the circling back part. So true...

  4. Thanks Jennifer. I do believe deep down that our relationship would have weathered the differences that emerged in my adulthood. It's good to hear your perspective.