BY SUZANNE JOHNSON, Mental Health Counselor
I looked in the rear view mirror and peeked at my kids as I made my way out of town to visit my parents. I reached in anticipation for the little package wrapped in tin foil that I had noticed as I was rushing around my house trying to get the kids and myself ready to leave.
I knew it was a piece of coffee cake that my mom had made for my kids on one of their “stay at home” days with her. Then I felt it. It was mother guilt.
I knew James would love to eat the brown sugar off the top, and Kendra loves the soft white middle. Then I laughed at myself – am I really having this much trouble enjoying something as little as a piece of coffee cake?
Uh, oh, images of my mother came to mind. My mother is the proverbial giving tree, like in the classic children’s book by Shel Silverstein. What if all my life experiences, college education and women’s liberation mumbo jumbo were for naught? Am I destined for a life of giving away my pickle and never eating the last of anything?
Let me explain a little about my mom. She is much more comfortable giving than receiving. She spends much of her time with her children and grandchildren, happily taking care of us all.
She doesn’t want to trouble anyone. I have a hard time getting her to even use my full size towels – she tends to find the oldest and smallest ones I have for herself. She will come to my house and eat her pizza on the cardboard box. “Plate? No, none for me. Really, I don’t need one.”
Even though money is tight for her, she never arrives without something – her homemade chicken and biscuits, a carton of orange juice or magazine articles she thinks I would be interested in.
She will run errands for me, then tell me that whatever she bought for me was on sale (yes, dad, that’s where her money went) or she can’t remember how much it cost. “Just give me a five,” she says.
We used to – well, OK, we still do – tease my mom about how she takes doing for others to an art form. And sometimes it even drives us a little crazy.
When the kids and I got to my parents’ house, my mother had another little tin foil package for me. My father had taken her out to dinner the night before and she had saved me – I’m sure it was her plan all along – half of her crab and prime rib dinner.
She is always thinking of how she can share whatever she has with one of her kids or grandkids. So when I start to tell my mom that I am a grown-up and not to worry about me, I will try to bite my tongue and let that feeling wash over me that I know my mom loves me, and all of us, so much.
I am learning how much my mother influenced who I am, and I think that makes my kids pretty lucky.
By the way, I did eat that piece of coffee cake – and then I made the kids cupcakes for lunch.
Suzanne is a Mental Health Counselor at Buffalo State College. She has three children; James - 10, Kendra - 8 and Nicholas - 18 months.