During a recent visit from my daughter who lives in New York, she was doing a load of wash. As Rachel passed me with her small bundle of laundry, she asked, “Do you have any advice for me, Mom?”
As a matter of fact, I did have some advice for her.
“How did you know?” I replied, laughing.
“You have that motherly advice look on your face,” she said.
As it turned out, my only “advice” was instructions about how to use my homemade laundry soap. (You have to start the machine with hot water, then stir in the soap to dissolve it.)
Later during her visit, she did this again, asking, “What advice do you have for me, Mom?”
So nice to actually be asked!
But really, we try to refrain, don’t we, from giving advice to our adult children. Haven’t we already spent enough years training them in the ways of the world?
As Eric Fromm wrote in “The Art of Loving,” “The very essence of motherly love is … to want the child’s separation from self.”
My mother knew this. She encouraged my independence, teaching me to ride a bicycle, cross the highway, pay for items at the store. After she divorced my father, she showed me how to make a living.
When I had children, my mother told me that many women would give me advice, to which I should listen kindly and smile, but to follow my own instincts.
My mother-in-law, however — in spite of her many lovely qualities — was always telling me what to do.
The contrast was most apparent when a child was sick. I followed the example of my mother, who had always nursed me well: giving me lots of water and homemade soup, having me rest, keeping things quiet and dark. She only called the doctor if, after several days, a fever would not come down.
My mother-in-law tried to push me into taking my children to the doctor at the first sign of illness. She even showed up at the door to give us a ride.
As an adult, I never had to make boundaries with my mom. We both instinctively knew where they were. My MIL was a different story.
Once when she was babysitting, she gave my son a bath and “baptized” him the way it would happen in a church service. She told me this years later. This showed a total lack of respect for us as parents.
I had to remind myself often to be patient with her. Even when she came into my home while I was out and re-hung my curtains the way she liked them.
My mom never told me I could “be anything” I set my mind to or any of that we hear so much of today. Her advice was more practical.
I love the advice shared by this woman, Julie, who remembers this from her mom:
■ You can always make do with what you have.
■ When people lash out at you, it's only because they are hurting and frustrated.
■ Look for the man who is truly interested in you, not the one you have to chase down.
■ Foul language makes the speaker sound ignorant and coarse, while a full vocabulary brings tact and clarity.
■ Books are the best and cheapest way to travel the world.
And my favorite: “The best way to end arguments around the dinner table is to smile and squish pudding through your teeth.”