Mom-speak is real. It is a language moms use to inflict upon their children their own needs and desires. And the perspective changes dramatically depending on if you are the mother or the daughter.
Question: What’s the definition of a sweater?
Answer: A garment worn by a child when her mother is cold.
Did you giggle when you read that? No matter what your cultural background, religion, or ethnic heritage, it strikes an all too familiar chord for many of us. But it sure isn’t funny when you are the one whose arms are being thrust into that sweater – especially if you are not the slightest bit cold.
As the daughter of my mother, I agonized over the conflict between Mom’s need to take care of me and my desire to be independent.
As the mother of my daughter, I’m still distressed, albeit under the reversed circumstance: I struggle with my need to take care of her while recognizing her wish to be self-sufficient.
The Daughter Perspective
Mom, back then, was that woman who constantly nagged, commented on my choices of clothing, friends, eating habits. Certainly, some inner recesses of my subconscious tried to get me to understand her badgering was not meant as harassment; not meant to hurt my easily bruised psyche. There must have been some part of my mind that recognized her intent was not to inflict pain.
“Caryn Jane, you didn’t finish your dinner. You must clean your plate for there are children in the world who are starving.”
Not quite understanding how my clean plate would, in any way, aid those aforementioned hungry kids I, nevertheless, did as I was bidden. I tackled the last of four lamb chops, broccoli, and baked potato, then moved on to dessert. That, of course, was inhaled with no prompting necessary.
Okay, so I’d listened to Mom, did as she requested and finished my dinner. Why, then, was she always on my case to lose weight?
“Caryn Jane, you look like a Mac truck in that outfit.”
Now, that was a great comment from her point of view. With those eleven words, she not only managed to denigrate my excess pounds but also passed negative judgment on my fashion sense. Whammo – two points for that one!
The Foreign Language of Mom-Speak
With the passing of years and family circumstances, however, I now have a perspective on motherhood that I was not privy to in my youth. Mom’s commentaries were uttered in a foreign language of mom-speak. Only logical to the speaker, it is totally incomprehensible to the listener and, therefore, all too often, misinterpreted.
“Clean your plate because children are starving” translated in my mind to Mom needing me to show how much I enjoyed her cooking. In truth, it was mom-speak for “I came from a place of poverty, survived the war and can now provide for my family.” Who knew it was code language for her love? She did.
Likening my girth to that of a Mac truck was hurtful when I heard the words. Properly decoded, though, they were meant to aid me in my choice of clothing, to look like the young woman she wanted me to be. Mom was proud of her daughter and wanted me to be “a lady, petite in size and well dressed.” How else would I ever find a husband? Once again, mom-speak for love.
I listened. I groaned. And, while I wanted desperately to rebel, I abided by her every command.
Trying to Change The Language
I was wise enough, however, to never do use mom speak with my kids. Certainly, on trips to New York City to visit Grandma advice was needed. The correct choice of clothing was important. As in “No way are you wearing that grungy outfit to the City.” And I did have to teach them that it is wasteful to not finish every morsel on their dinner plates. “Children in Vietnam are starving” I’m sure they understood. Didn’t they? I only had their best interests at heart.
My mother’s needs and desires had translated into her requirements for my conduct. I didn’t understand that then. I didn’t even fully comprehend when I became a mother. Only now can I look back and recognize the pattern that I unwillingly followed in the rearing of my children. I hope that one day they recognize that all the badgering was my mom-speak. As with my mom’s, it was filled with the best of intentions and boundless amounts of love.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s feeling a little chilly in the house. I’ve got to go get a sweater – to put on my granddaughter.
Visit CJ at www.cjgolden.com
Author and inspirational speaker, CJ Golden, has a passion for helping others find joy in their life journeys. Her first book, Tao of the Defiant Woman, was born out of a personal need to find her own inner strength. She then brought her Tao and defiant attitude to teen and pre-teen girls through Tao-Girls Rule! Recently she became a caregiver to her husband, Joe, after he suffered cancer-related strokes. Blogging about that, the greatest challenge of her life, she turned her work into her newest book: One Pedal at a Time.