Mum's the Word on Guilt
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Guilt is hereditary - You get it from your Mother. My mother is the Queen of Guiltville. For as long as I can remember, she has dished out a daily helping of it. Hers is a very subtle technique. I think every mother has her own style when it comes to expressing disapproval to her kids. Depending on nationality and upbringing, methods range from the rather refined to downright neurotic behaviour.
My mother went for a silent, subtle method when showing her objections. Starting in childhood, whenever I failed her, she would not turn to long lectures or harsh words. Instead, she would sigh, slump her shoulders, and slowly walk away. This brutally effective way of correction continued into my teens - and my dating years.
Whenever I returned from a date, my mom wouldn't be sitting in her chair staring at a clock. No, that would be too obvious. I could always find her laying in bed reading her Bible. Talk about an effective way to keep a young girl from making a huge mistake. Facing a judgmental parent is one thing, confronting God is another. If I came home extra late, I would find her asleep with her lights still on. Removing her glasses, I'd turn out the light, and pry the open Bible from her work worn hands. Knowing that she worked all day to support us and - because she was so worried, still stayed up half the night reading her Bible and praying, only made the humiliation factor double.
Marriage helped some, but then, I entered motherhood. Now I was getting advice on how to do raise my own children. If I didn't adhere to her ideas, the guilt gavel would sound - with a deafening silence. All the while, I was trying to understand this wonderful world of shame dispensing myself.
After the first two years I developed my own style of laying on the guilt. Mine is one of intrigue and mystery. The edge lies in that they never know what to expect from me. One time I will try the long-winded lecture, the next I will pull from the archives of my mother's methods. Therein lies the power. The power of unpredictability.
Seven years of motherhood later, and I have finally discovered the reason mothers tend to antagonize their children - it's because they love them.
When a parent truly loves a child, she cares what becomes of her. She has high hopes and expectations for the beautiful being that has been placed in her care. With those hopes and expectations comes a load of responsibility and accountability that falls heavily on a mother's shoulders. For every ounce of guilt she dispenses, she swallows ten herself. When our children fail, we mothers feel more remorse and regret than our children will ever understand - that is, until they are mothers themselves.
Yes, I will continue to make my girls feel guilty, because I love them enough to care. And I can only hope that, like a cherished heirloom, they will someday care enough to pass on the art of guilt giving to their own children . . .
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Another wonderfully humorous article Lori! I just did my 1st critique on your latest in the Critique Circle & am enjoying more of your articles now. You have a true gift of writing (and humor)!!!!
Oh this is such a great piece! You had me smiling and nodding my head. My mom had the talent to raise one eyebrow! Oh how I envy that ability. The closer the brow came to her hairline the more powerful the LOOK. Since I can't manage making just one eyebrow do all the talking I've adapted my THE LOOK some but boy my kids and even their friends know what that look means. Though some may not think guilt is a healthy thing to put on children, as a mom I know exactly what you're talking about. It's not a tool of manipulation (Well at least not most of the time:)but it's a means of protecting them and loving them. Parents today are slipping in disciplining their children and as a result we have a generation of spoiled, instant-gratification seeking brats. Your piece speaks volumes about the importance of letting kids know when they messed up. My husband would say our kids are could compared to others their age but that wasn't what I wanted them to be. I wanted kids that lived up to the expectations of God. It sounds like you want the same things. Thanks for sharing this delightful piece.