“Have you ever thought of letting her go barefoot?” my mom asks, as if today were my first day on the job as “mom.”
My mind immediately short circuits, reeling with replies that run the gamut from sarcasm to snark, from coy to clever. I don’t want to ask her what she means by her question, I can’t understand why she wonders if I’ve ever thought of letting my girl be barefoot (of course I have, and do), and I’m not in the mood to explain to her why I chose to put fleece booties on my 10-month old on a cold, rainy day. In the moment, doing my best to keep my irritation at bay, I answer with the simple truth. “Yes,” I mutter, and leave it at that.
In an instant, I am whisked away from a fun-filled moment of watching my 74-year old mom, down on all fours, playing spatulas with Hazel while I dice strawberries into bite-size pieces, to my own private world of tirade, righteousness, incomprehension, and disbelief. What is she talking about? Why would you even ask that question? What did she even mean by that?
I sit and stew, steam surely visible exiting my ears. Must she point out everything she sees? Can’t she get a filter? And then, as suddenly as the moment began, I begin to cotton on to what’s happening. Crap. She pressed my button. My mind resists, tied to its righteousness.
Now I have two thought trains, doing battle. One wants me to get evermore indignant, the other wants me to wake up. Wake up to what’s going on, what’s really true, what’s on offer for me.
I’ve taken her question as nagging, but it’s not. She sees something I don’t, she wants what’s best for me, even 40 years on. For she is my mom—a job description without an end date. And now I get it—wanting the best for your little girl.
Slowly, I begin to dig myself out. I know the Indignant Express is not the thought-train I want to be on. I don’t see the answer yet, and my skin crawls with unjustness, but I trust the process. I ignore my discomfort. I know the steps. I proceed.
How am I acting right now? I’m doing “cold-shoulder,” being distant. I’ve retreated, and disengaged. What’s the benefit of acting this way? I get to be self-righteous and cold. I’ve got p-o-w-e-r. What’s the cost of acting this way?
I look and see them, happily playing with plastic lids, unaware of my private tirade. They are giggling, cooing, being lovely—a priceless moment of spinning measuring cups on the kitchen floor. Meanwhile, I’m being a brat because I have a demand that my mom be more “thoughtful” about the way she poses her questions. The cost to me is clear: I’m missing out on a moment of spontaneous joy and togetherness. It’s that simple, it’s that clear. I drop it all—my act, my coolness, my teenage brat, my superior, my demand—all of it. Hanging out with my self-righteous Gremlin, my irritated me, my disconnected self, is not how I want to spend my time.
Where I want to be, is happily dicing strawberries, watching the woman who gave me life, play with the girl to whom I gave life, a precious moment of 3 generations, all in one. I take off Hazel’s booties so she can get a better grip on the floor. And I put down my old stuff, thankful for the gift in a simple question.