My parents just left. As in two minutes ago. We had a great weekend full of the things that we do when we’re together. Primarily talking, but also dominoes, (the game, not the pizza), watching a lot of funny tv and laughing really hard, and eating.
I am so blessed with the parents that I have. They are some of the best people in the world. And that’s not just my opinion, there’s a book on the subject. (No, really, there is. For their 50th anniversary, their family and friends for the past five decades all wrote notes about how special they are, and they were put together into a paperback book with an extremely limited first printing of 5.) They don’t have a bad thing to say about anyone. Well, almost. My dad does have a thing or two to say about other drivers from time to time, but they aren’t too unkind. Nothing that wouldn’t make the Disney Channel.
But a weird thing happens to me when I know they are coming over. I start self-criticizing. I start looking at what was yesterday a nice, clean house and suddenly see filth. Grime in corners. Gunk around faucets. Germy toilets. I go into what my husband calls my “mom-proofing” mode, cleaning little areas and looking for dirt in places she would never look. Not that she would say a word if she saw some dirt. My mom is so kind – and she always tells me not to fuss, that she’s not coming to see my house. But in the back of my head, a voice keeps saying “My mom’s house would never have this black stuff under the edge of the sink – that I didn’t even know was there till I scraped at it with my fingernail.” It’s all me.
(I had a funny conversation with my sister via a series of short emails on this subject:
Me: I have so much to do, Mom and Dad are coming tonight. I have to mom-proof the house.
Cheri: Be sure to cover all the outlets. She likes to stick her fingers in them.
Me: LOL. That’s funny. Mom-proof is Sam’s term for when I go “my-mom’s-house-would-never-have-gunk-around-the-faucets” crazy cleaning.
Cheri: Oh. I gave up that kind of thinking for Lent. 20 years ago.
Me: Ah – that’s the problem. I don’t observe Lent.
anyway, back to what I was saying)
It got me to thinking, here I am, pushing middle age (ok, stop laughing, those of you who know how old I am…) sigh… Ok, well into middle age, and still so anxious for my parents’ approval. I bring out my computer to show my dad what I’ve been working on, and tell him what I do at work, to hear him say “good job”. I make a nice stack of towels, hand towels and washcloths on the bed in the guest room so my mom thinks “how thoughtful”. It’s not all that different from picking a bunch of dandelions when I was four and saying “Here, mommy, these are for you.”
My parents tell me often how much they love me and are proud of me – so this just reminds me that a child – of any age- can’t hear it too much or too often. I need to tell my own kids more, which is a little harder, because they aren’t the type of personalities who like to hear compliments directly all the time. But that doesn’t make the encouragement any less needed. Just a little more challenging on my part.
It also reminds me that when I look anywhere but my heavenly Father for my meaning and self-worth, I will keep needing to be filled and filled and filled, because that need is bottomless. I need to remind my self daily, hourly sometimes, that God loves me completely, unconditionally – accepts me absolutely without me having to change a thing- but cares so much about me that he will then change me for the better. The more I put this into my heart, the less I need other people’s approval to be ok with who I am.
Which doesn’t mean that I will ever stop wanting my mommy to think I do a good job with what she’s taught me. It just means that the fact that she does (or even if she didn’t) isn’t what makes me ok with being me. Being a chosen, accepted, forgiven, consecrated, anointed, holy, beloved child of God does.