Don’t Throw Your Mom Under the Bus: Letters to a Teenage Girl
I can’t remember the first time I threw my mom under the bus, but try as I might, I can’t forget the worst time. I was 17 and thought I was the hardest working, most put-upon high school girl on the planet. I went off-campus to college for all but one class, worked a weekend job in catering, and volunteered in an at-risk classroom every week. I was pretty self-sufficient.
So when my mom got onto me about something one day, in a fit of self-righteousness, I threw her personal life history in her face. I yelled something along the lines of, “Yeah, well when you were my age you had a baby.”
Real mature. If you want to be treated like an adult and think of yourself as an adult, this is not the way to go, FYI.
The ironic thing is that I’ll bet my mom forgot about that after a few weeks. Having raised two daughters through their teenage years, I’m guessing my mom grew some tough skin. But me? I’ve never forgotten those words and what saying them took away from me. I’ll remember those bitter words for the rest of my life.
The Longer You Live, the More Mistakes You’ll Make
What changed between the me I was when I said those words to my mom and the me that regrets them today (although, to be honest, I regretted them instantly) is a whole heckuva lot of life experience.
You’re mom isn’t perfect; no mother is. So if you’re already at the stage of your life where you’re measuring her up against a stick of what you think a mother “ought to be” – stop it. All you’re going to achieve with that is a lot of resentment from unmet expectations. I’ll write about the pitfalls of expectations in another letter. Those are generally no good anyway.
You’re not going to be perfect when you’re your mom’s age either. And that’s a good thing. Life provides us with plenty of opportunities for “mistakes” and the older you get, the more “mistakes” you’re going to accumulate.
Mistakes Make Us Smarter
Mistakes are what make us grow into better people. If your mom never made a mistake, then she would never learn how to be a better person. And none of us are born “better” than others. Some people just choose to turn their mistakes into growth opportunities, while others will wonder why the same mistake keeps happening to them over and over again.
Socrates said that the truly intelligent man knows that he knows nothing. There’s so much that life is going to teach you through mistakes, that maybe it’s impossible for you to understand that kind of intelligence right now.
There’s No Satisfaction in Being Better Than Anyone
Just know this: the satisfaction you think you’ll feel by belittling your mom doesn’t exist. The impulse to yell at her or throw her faults in her face is momentary and unfulfilling. Putting people down because you feel superior (or because you think it will make you superior) never works. It’s like quicksand; quicksand pulls you in further every time you try to climb out. That’s how putting people down works, too. You’ll actually only feel smaller, less superior.
That’s what I lost the moment I uttered (or rather, yelled) those words that day. I felt a sinking in my stomach that I recognize today as disappointment in myself, because I had attempted to make my mother feel small because I thought I was so much bigger than the person she was at my age. What really sucks is now that I’m an adult, I realize what my mom sacrificed at my age to give me the kind of life that allowed me to be in a better situation than she was in.
You’re not better than your mom right now. You simply haven’t had the opportunity to make your mistakes. And you will make them. It’s not a bad thing as long as you choose to grow.
Maybe one of your mistakes will be taking out your frustrations on your mom. That’s OK too. You’ll get to learn how to apologize, find out how good an honest apology can feel, and discover a new way to communicate when you’re hurt or upset. That’s how it’s worked for me, anyway.