Â â€œWhat you didn’t tell someone was just as debilitating as what you did.â€
â€• Jodi Picoult,
Â â€œIf you had a terminal disease, would you tell me?â€
I thought about it for a few moments. â€œProbably not.â€
Such was the start of a discussion between my daughter and I some years ago. She was in college and adapting to our evolving mother/daughter relationship. To be honest, I had my hands in front of me feeling my way along our from-conception bond as well. Although we have always been close, her question brought up an odd mix of emotions. How much would I share if the news were bad? At what point does the fulcrum between protectiveness and disrespect tilt one way or the other?
As I recall, she became upset with my â€œprobably notâ€ answer. â€œWhy wouldnâ€™t you tell me?â€ she demanded. Backed into a corner I came up with solid reasons, or at least those I felt were rock-solid Mom-isms:
â€œI wouldnâ€™t tell you because there is no need to make you worry about something out of your control.â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t tell you because you have enough on your plate.â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t tell you because I donâ€™t want you to lose focus on your studies.â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t tell you because I donâ€™t want to be a burden.â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t tell you because I have a need to be forever strong in your eyes.â€
Pretty good, right? Mom of the year stuff.
Nope. She shredded me.
â€œBy not telling me you are saying I donâ€™t matter.â€
â€œBy not telling me you are disrespecting our relationship.â€
â€œBy not telling me you deny my need to comfort you; to be there for you as you have been there for me.â€
â€œBy not telling me you are saying I am not strong, and you raised me to be strong. What do you actually believe?â€
â€œBy not telling me you are hurting me, not protecting me.â€
Dang her! When did she become so smart, so intuitive, and so capable of calling me out? Oh yeah. Since birth.
But ever since that conversation so long ago I have had a different appreciation for what I do, or donâ€™t, share with those I love. It is not always comfortable to admit weaknesses or failures. I still hate to burden others. It is better to blithely offer platitudes than uncomfortable truths.
Now I realize that by keeping silent during low points I am selfish in a weird sort of way. I am keeping people I love at arm’s length when I would rather be holding them oh so very close, and that serves no one.
How about you? How do you handle the way you share the less-than-good news with those you love?
Laura Carlson says
Leave it to our beautiful daughters to make us see things in a different light. Lovely, Gail. I can relate to your feelings on the difficulty in sharing things we are going through. Thank you for once again touching my heart…
It is interesting how much we learn about ourselves from our children. Thank you for responding, Laura.