Lip Balm, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:11am


I sent my daughter a package this week. She had hit a rough patch, and asked me to send a care package the way I did when she was in college. I love it when my kids need me. Probably because they are, on the whole, independent. Grown.

Besides, this gave me a good excuse to go and buy beauty products. I sent her Aveda lip balm in Peony, along with some serious hand lotion, and two tubes of stuff for de-frizzing curls. She lives in New Jersey. Apparently they have real winter in New Jersey, and your lips, hair and hands come under attack.

Aveda products smell delicious. The lip balm has just the right degree of color. No mirror required to avoid clown mouth. I love things that add no worry to our existence.

The package was scheduled to arrive Thursday. And, come Thursday, I waited. The days when I was content to mother without thank yous have passed. I almost called her under the pretense of making sure everything had arrived.

Restraint. I thought, “I have to step back. Give her a little time to thank me. Or not.” I waited.

Friday she called. “Thank you Mom. It was perfect.” Effusive. Happy. If I had called her I would have wrecked everything. Skin of my teeth.

It’s always a question, with adult kids. What relationship prevails? Who are we to them? How authentic? I’m clear, I’m no longer the hand into which they get to put their empty candy wrappers. But I haven’t won the golden ticket to be a big baby, either. My real self may feel needy but my real self also wants the best for them.

It made me think.

In my corporate life, I had to create a fairly tough persona. Man up, only, um, I’m a woman. In my parenting life, calm, rational mamahood, only, um, I’m fairly high-strung. Even in social media we manage personas. Are these all false? Is the psychological model right? I had an underlying desire to call my daughter right away and ask, “Did you get the package?” just so I could hear her say, “Thank you, Mom.” Is that our real self?

I used to think so. Now, not so much. Maybe when we’re young. The physical swings, impulses, needs, are stronger. The raw materials, well, rawer. The learned self of late childhood still only rough, and hard to see clearly. You’re right down in it.

But at 53, it seems possible that what I love is as much my authentic self as what I need. That restraint can be as true as confession. That pauses are almost movement.

*And no, no compensation has exchanged hands. Provoked a thought. But that’s free.

32 Comments

  • 01/16/10
    11:20 am

    Reply

    Ariana said...

    This is a beautiful post thank you. As a 27 year contemplating mother-hood…. excited, yet also terrified of all the ways I can screw it up, lol! I love to hear reflections, advice and the humble inevitablity of human flaws… made beautiful by the never ending desire to evolve and be a better person. thanks!

  • 01/16/10
    11:54 am

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    Mrs. Lynch said...

    This post really spoke to me. As a young mom and as a daughter, I must tell you that no matter how many children we have or how old we get, we NEED our mothers. We may not say it but a mother's love DOES make the world go round. Thank you for being one of the moms that help make the world a little easier for us as women but as daughters first.

  • 01/16/10
    11:55 am

    Reply

    Susan said...

    The biggest gift to myself amid a littered history of continuous unrelenting guilt re parents and their unmet needs is the freedom to give in love and sit in gratitude for the very chance to do so.

  • 01/16/10
    12:08 pm

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    materfamilias said...

    My dad would sometimes call before 8 a.m., when we were young and free enough to still be sleeping at that hour — he never worried, as I do with my kids, about whether he'd be waking us up. He's been gone ten years, and I wish he were waking me up still. My mother might have called me — or any of my siblings for that matter — two or three times in the last ten years. Her shy introversion extends even to her own children, and she prefers to wait 'til we call her. I have a friend who, though much more outgoing and confident than my mom, similarly waits for her adult children (on the English language's frustrating lacks — a word that would obviate this oxymoron) to call. I try to live somewhere between those two approaches, but I'm always aware of the risk of trespass. In 34 years of mothering, four kids to spread it out on, this might be one of the biggest challenges — and also carries the biggest possible rewards.
    Once again, thanks for articulating this so well (and I agree with you about those intoxicating Aveda scents — aromatherapy indeed!)

  • 01/16/10
    1:08 pm

    Reply

    ELS said...

    I hope that when I am no longer the repository of empty sweet wrappers (great summary of early motherhood) that some of your humour, wisdom, fortitude and thoughtfulness will have rubbed off on me.

    Serious hats off to you for admitting you still need them… x

  • 01/16/10
    1:09 pm

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    Preppy 101 said...

    I so identify with this post. When to call, when to wait? When to question, when to not. Once they are adults, things that were once done without a second thought now have to be analyzed, over-analyzed before the big decision on such a small matter is made. We know if we "mess up", we may make them distant. xoxo

  • 01/16/10
    1:55 pm

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    Duchesse said...

    If we live that long we gradually move from being the caregiver to being cared for. The inbetween years are the grey areas in more way than one. We are not needed for nightly feedings but we are for low days. We will always need one another, but the balance changes and sometimes throws us off. And love endures.

  • 01/16/10
    1:57 pm

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    Semi Expat said...

    I so enjoyed reading this post and as ever you make me stop and think – really identify too with your "when to call dilemma"…As the mother of a 19 year old daughter I admit I think I have messed up on timing of calls before now – it's a veritable minefield. But the joy when you realise they need you and hearing those words "Miss you, Mum, so much" is enough to fill my needy heart.

  • 01/16/10
    2:55 pm

    Reply

    Jill said...

    My mother still sends me recipes, newspaper articles, photos, little gifts. I just love it…and she has no patience! I think she calls as soon as HER mailman picks up the package.

  • 01/16/10
    4:25 pm

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    Muffy said...

    You're such a good mom.

  • 01/16/10
    4:37 pm

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    the gardeners cottage said...

    I agree with Muffy, you are an excellent mother. Thoughtful, kind, loving. Is there anything better in the whole world than being one or having one?

    ~janet

    p.s. Excellent choice in Aveda.

    p.s.s. I'm an esthetician for Aveda!

  • 01/16/10
    4:45 pm

    Reply

    hostess of the humble bungalow said...

    I can just imagine how your daughter felt receiving the thoughtful care package…like chicken soup, it's good for what ails you, and Aveda is a wonderful tonic.
    I find myself hesitating before phoning my kids just to make certain that I am not going to appear too needy myself, I thought I might be alone in this….guess not!

  • 01/16/10
    4:56 pm

    Reply

    Someone said...

    Must comment, New Jersey winters can indeed be harsh. When I was in a PhD program at Rutgers, that is the time when I remember my skin at its driest, and that was years ago. Ugh.

  • 01/16/10
    5:33 pm

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    QueenBeeSwain said...

    love you for this post and the gesture and the thought. I love my MoMo, but she does not "do" care packages, keep on sending them to your dears, they cherish you so for it!

    xoox

    kHm

  • 01/16/10
    5:41 pm

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    Maureen@IslandRoar said...

    How nice that your daughter can ask for what she needs from you this way. My own mother is big into taking turns with phone calls, and I have never liked this. I have learned restraint with my kids, trying not to call when I feel needy, because that may come across and I don't want them to feel that.
    You sound like you have a wonderful balance. I love when you write about mothering; I learn a lot.

  • 01/16/10
    6:23 pm

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    Laura said...

    I am right there with you.
    In fact (my daughters are 37,31, and 28), this letting go and limbo land is harder than when they left for college.

    I find myself constantly negotiating with myself about how I feel- based on how they make me feel.

    This is NOT good.

    So I am working on detaching – I think.
    It is all so confusing.

    Let me re-phrase that.
    I am working on not assigning motives to what they say or do not say.

    Sigh.

    I am now exhausted.

    Laura

  • 01/16/10
    6:55 pm

    Reply

    The Daily Connoisseur said...

    Great post- and I would love to receive a care package from you anytime- loved the thoughtful contents!

  • 01/17/10
    5:18 am

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    JMW said...

    Great post! Mothers always contend with that tug and pull, dont' we? My little ones are only 4 and 2, but my mother still picks up "care packages" for me and now for my children. Glad your daughter called. BTW, love Aveda – the perfect care package!

  • 01/17/10
    6:36 am

    Reply

    see you there! said...

    Everyone needs to be acknowledged with a thank you – and in my Mother and Grandmother role it seems even more important that it happen right away. I bite my tongue and try to wair.

    Love Aveda, lucky me becaue one of their shops is within walking distance from our house.

    Darla

  • 01/17/10
    7:15 am

    Reply

    The Gold Digger said...

    I see the difference between healthy and needy (completely dysfunctional?) in my mom and my husband's mom. My mom has her own interests and life; my husband's mom is focused completely on him. I love my mom. We email all the time (at least four times a week), talk occasionally. (We are neither of us big phone talkers.)

    My husband has a command phone call to his parents at least once a week. Command visits twice a year. We "abandoned" them by not going there for Christmas this year.

    Why didn't I eat his mom's onion rings at supper? Didn't I like them? It couldn't be because 1. I don't eat fried foods or 2. I am taking medication that kills my appetite or 3. maybe I had eaten my fill while I was cooking them or 4. maybe I didn't like them and so what if I didn't?

    Point is was the only possibility was it was ALL ABOUT HER.

    What I am getting at is she is so self centered and everything my husband (and I) do is about her. It's maddening.

    So yes. It is polite to ackowledge the receipt of a gift and OF COURSE your daughter did that because that is how you reared her. OF COURSE SHE DID!

    But (and I am ranting about my own situation here, not you, Lisa, or anyone else who has commented, and eventually I will post about this on my own blog but man this is a sore point with me about my MIL) the mothers, like my mother in law, who get so caught up in their children that they have nothing else and sob drunkenly at said child's wedding supper that he is their Only Joy and his toddler years were the Happiest Time of her life are enough to make you want to pull your hair out. Or hers.

  • 01/17/10
    8:06 am

    Reply

    Buckeroomama said...

    I am 39 and I still "need" my mother, although like you pointed out, not for the same reasons as when I was 5. These days, my mother's presence serves as a mirror as to how I would want to raise my children, with maybe just a few minor adjusting of the angles here and there.

  • 01/17/10
    9:47 am

    Reply

    LPC said...

    Thank you everyone. Upon reading these comments I almost called my daughter to tell her not to worry, I wouldn't let what people said go to my head:). I am lucky in that my daughter does tell me what she needs. And that I've got an Aveda salon right on Main Street:).

  • 01/17/10
    12:48 pm

    Reply

    agirl said...

    Beautiful post. My mother hasn't discovered blogs yet (or at least, she hasn't admitted to it), but when she does I'm definitely pointing her to yours.

    And there's nothing like a thoughtful care package when needed.

  • 01/17/10
    3:01 pm

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    The New Deal said...

    follow my blog at http://444richandfamous.blogspot.com

  • 01/17/10
    6:32 pm

    Reply

    Susie said...

    I really love reading your thoughtful posts & when they concern mothering, I sit up and take notice because there's always something which rings a bell with me…I also love Laura's comment about 'not assigning motives to what they say or don't say' – brilliantly put & going straight into my 'How to interact with 19 year old daughter file'! Thanks for this….Susie x

  • 01/17/10
    8:12 pm

    Reply

    kaitlin said...

    Speaking from the 22-year old perspective: Thank you for waiting to call. Also, you have caused me to take notice of how my mom still needs me in many ways.

  • 01/18/10
    8:07 am

    Reply

    Jill said...

    Maker's Mark is a type of bourbon…a Manhattan is a my favorite drink.

    2 parts Maker's Mark
    1 part sweet vermouth
    a dash of bitters
    and a Luxardo cherry (I like those so much better than the Maraschino cherry)

    Shake it and serve in a Martini glass

  • 01/19/10
    1:04 am

    Reply

    Pink Martini said...

    Since I am still in the care package send off mode, I will send an email the day or two after if I don't hear. Sometimes it is necessary to remind busy college students of their manners so they do not repeat to others. I've done this a few times and now I think it has finally sunk in. I'm a mom. It's what I do.

  • 01/19/10
    7:38 am

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    Joyce Hor-Chung Lau said...

    Aveda has the nicest smelling shampoo in the world.

  • 01/19/10
    2:04 pm

    Reply

    Amanda said...

    Mommies are the bestest.

  • 01/21/10
    3:47 pm

    Reply

    C said...

    yes, NJ, it can be brutal here- we have bears and coyotes… but it is warm this week (40F) and we have Sephoras and huge CVSs and Rite Aids by the score, so she really needed some emotional support.

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