“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
– Albert Einstein
One should never stop learning. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how much education you have obtained, there is always something new to be learned. It can be something as simple as following a recipe and creating a dish you’ve never before tried, or it can be a highly complicated lesson in life.
Hubs spent the majority of this past week in San Antonio. Not only was he gone, but he was busy for about 12 hours each day and unavailable to communicate except the occasional text. It sucked. But we made it through and we’re quite enjoying a nice weekend right now. My mom will often visit when Hubs is out of town; To keep me company and to visit A. She’ll make her way to my house after work putting her here around 6:30, play with A until she goes to bed, my mom and I will have a wine-induced conversation that always revolves around the same topics, we’ll go to bed and she’ll leave the house around 6:30 the following morning…making it a very early day around here. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my mom’s efforts, especially to visit A, but the visit this week left my head spinning.
My mom was born and raised in backwoods Michigan. Her family is, well, different. They’re not bad people, just have really different views about life and what is socially acceptable. My mom in one of 6 siblings and joined the Air Force when she turned 18 just to get the hell outta dodge. I’m thankful everyday for that decision. Had she not left, she wouldn’t have met my father and I wouldn’t be here…or at the very least wouldn’t be the person I am today. My mom made it a point to keep my sister and I away from her family for the most part. When we were younger, we would visit my grandparents, aunts and uncles once a year, but it was always obvious my sister and I lived a VERY different life than our aunts, uncles and cousins. I would say we lived a terribly sheltered childhood…but the values and morals we were raised with were much different from those of my relatives up North. My grandmother passed away when I was in college, on July 4th none the less. I was with friends drinking beer and shooting off fireworks. I didn’t go to her funeral. My grandfather lives several more years, but was ill. He developed Alzheimer’s and it was especially difficult for my mom. She was always closer to her dad. He passed away after I had graduated, and I did attend his funeral. I haven’t been back since. While I was there, my mom, sister and I visited my grandparents house and gathered a few mementos to take home with us. My grandmother sewed, I have a few instructional sewing books that I took from her house…someday I’ll teach myself to sew. My grandfather was a Veteran, from him I have a shell casing from the 21-gun salute from his funeral.
That’s a very short and rough overview. But it leads me to this: Growing up, it was always, always, always expected that my sister and I would attend college, graduate, and make more of ourselves than my mother did. It was her life’s mission to ensure her kids had a better life. After all, she’s gone through a lot to get us in a different place geographically, made herself the black sheep of the family by living with different morals and values and she married into a family that didn’t immediately love her right away. For me, it never seemed like an option. I was to graduate high-school, graduate from college (not just attend) get a job and support myself. It was never a conversation that was had…it was just understood. My sister, apparently, didn’t come to the same conclusions I did, but more on that later.
I wanted to attend Texas A&M for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t an especially great student, mostly because I did just fine on my own and I don’t think my parents pushed me hard enough. So when it came time to apply, no big shock that I wasn’t accepted. I managed to convince my parents to let me move to College Station anyways so I could attend the junior college there. I did great, busted my butt (no easy feat when the professors at the junior college are the same ones at the big university down the street) and got myself into A&M. I had taken a Psychology class at Blinn and loved it. I loved everything about it, so when it came time to choose a major, I chose Psychology. It fascinated me, I understood it and I never wanted to miss a class. Most of my classes were lectures and I found myself hanging on every word said. I did really well in all my Psyc classes…except Statistics, but who cares. I graduated with a BS in Psychology…my diploma still (and ALWAYS) proudly displayed in our home. The problem with a BS in Psychology is there is very little you can do with it. Aside from continuing your education and getting a Masters and possibly Phd, you may as well have a degree in General Studies. Hubs and I graduated in 2003, the job market wasn’t exactly stellar. I worked the whole time I was in school on a part-time basis but that doesn’t really go over so well once you have this magical piece of paper that’s supposed to land you the job of your dreams. I had trouble finding a job and ended up in Human Resources for a local Pawn Shop company. It wasn’t a bad job, but it was full of “difficult to work with” people. It was a learning experience. I was miserable and for a short time decided my calling was to sell real estate. I quit the HR job (after receiving a promotion) and well, didn’t do the real estate thing. Looking back, I don’t know what the hell we were thinking, we couldn’t survive on Hubs’ income alone at that point. I wasn’t yet a Dave Ramsey convert. So I went searching for another job and this time, ended up as an Admin for a staffing agency. After I few years, I was promoted to Lead Admin and that was the last job I held.
Here’s what I thought happened…I went to high school, never got into trouble. Went to college, busted my butt to get into the school I wanted to be at. Picked a major that interested me and graduated…ON TIME. Got married, found a job, bought a house, got promoted at my job. Left said job since I was miserable, realized we needed additional income and found another job. Found said job, did well and got a promotion at THAT job. All the while we traveled, saved, did fun stuff, participated in life and decided to have a baby. Once A was here, I was able to quit my job because we had planned for it and now I’m a full time stay-at-home-mom with a husband that travels a good chunk of the time. We still travel, participate in life, are able to pay all our bills, save, lived to tell the tale about the twins, and decided to have ANOTHER baby. While I don’t go through life thinking I’m all that, I think I’ve done pretty well. I’m grateful everyday for my parents’ ability and willingness to pay for my college, but I’ve never asked them for much money-wise. Hubs and I have been solely self-sufficient for quite sometime. And we’ve made a nice little life for ourselves and we’re happy. As happy as we can be with all the challenges we’ve faced.
So here’s the lesson I learned. My mom started with this statement; “If you would have told me 10 years ago this is what our life would look like…”
She bagan to tell me that she didn’t think Hubs and I would ever have kids. This is a fair statement…I never wanted kids. She then proceeded to tell me she thought I would have pursued higher education, gotten my Masters and maybe Phd and would be practicing somewhere…kidless. She didn’t say this, but the insinuation was “and not just be a stay-at-home-mom”. She went on to say she thought my sister would have been a vet specializing in equine opthamology (WHAT THE EFF?!?!) and would have met someone at school and would be married by now. My poor sister. She wouldn’t have pictured herself leaving her job here and starting all over in a career at 50. In my head I was like, well, that was your choice to move, but whatevs.
My head was spinning. My mom has never told me she’s proud of my ability to stay home, she makes comments about how I’m a good mom and such, but she’s never given me the pat-on-the-back about being at home with A and (hopefully) Earl. “How can she not be proud of me?” is all I could think. The truth is, my mom was home with us until my sister was 4. My dad lost his job and she had to go back to work. She’s always had the guilt that goes along with leaving your kids and I don’t think she’s ever gotten over it. Maybe she’s worried someday I may face the same issue and she doesn’t want that for me. The truth is, I know she didn’t mean it the way it came out. She would be HORRIFIED and DEVASTATED if she knew how I interpreted the conversation. The thing is, I learned a VERY important lesson on Tuesday night. It is okay to have expectations of your children. It is not okay, however, to have very specific expectations of your children. To have such specific expectations sets your kids up for failure…no matter what they do with their life. I haven’t quite figured out what I want for A and for Earl, but I learned, very clearly, that my expectations need to be broad. I’m not mad and I’m not even all that upset about the conversation. More than anything, I’m thankful for the early lesson…thankful to learn something so profound while my kiddos are still young enough for me to make a change in the way I parent them.