How being a mother changed my feelings toward my own parents

The flight to Dominican Republic from Toronto was about four hours long. When you add the time of taking a taxi to the airport, checking in, going through security, waiting to board and finally boarding the plane, the process is more like eight hours. For two kids under five, that’s enough to have a couple of breakdowns. Remarkably, both kids have behaved really well, until now.

Blake’s whining started to get louder, and Scarlett was fussing on my lap and I knew both of them were extremely tired. Ethan tended to Blake and I preemptively strapped Scarlett on my carrier and walked to the back of the plane. The flight was not full, so I had the luxury to have a bit of room to rock her in the isle. She started drifting to sleep…Then we started to experience some turbulence. The seat belt sign quickly flicked on and I grabbed an empty seat at the back. The flight attendant politely asked me to unbuckle the baby carrier. I desperately rocked Scarlett in my arms while sitting down and luckily, she did not wake up. Blake had crashed by then, dreaming of superheroes, it was just my husband and I, awake but exhausted on this bumpy ride.

Ten minutes later, the turbulence had gotten worse to the point the flight attendants themselves had all sat down with seat belts buckled. Never had motion sickness, I felt a bit nauseous. For the first time in my life, I began to feel nervous about the plane ride. I looked down at Scarlett, her face so peaceful and her fists clutching onto the sides of body. I hugged her tightly, worried that she wasn’t stable in this turbulence. Ethan looked back to check on us, and seeing his face, I all of sudden felt stupid that I changed seat and was separated from the boys, what if…I quickly stopped my mind from going there.

I have flown so many times to so many places in my life and experienced far worse turbulence, but never felt this way. It came to me that the only difference was that now I am a mother, with two kids whose livelihood depends a lot on me. I also feel a deeper love toward these little people and my husband, so deep that the thought of separation or loss would fill my eyes with tears instantly. Then right there and then, I remembered, the very instant my mom clutched on to me just as tight…

It is no secret that my relationship with my parents has been a struggle for years and I spent more than a decade looking for answers to try to heal myself. Only until the last couple of years, I made some big progress. But first let me go back.

I was Blake’s age, in a pink dress and pig tails. We were having a family outing in XiangShan, a mountain in Beijing with the most beautiful fall colours. Mother and I took a cable car ride together and despite the security of metal bars locking us in, I vividly remember her clutching onto the back of my dress the entire ride, never eased up.

i wondered to myself now: Did she feel the same way as I was feeling just now? Was her heart filled with so much love for me that it lead to such fear? Could it be, that even with all the differences we have as parents, as human beings, these genuine feelings of love were the same at least for that brief moment?

Today, our culture makes us really into parenting. Maybe we are having kids by choice instead of social pressure; maybe we are having kids later in life thus have more patience; maybe it’s a result of having less kids and more resources. Whatever the cause, we read about, talk about, learn and fight about parenting more than any other generations before us. ‘Parent’ has become a verb, a science and something we dedicate a lot of time and energy to. With some of the issues I had with my parents, now I wonder how they could’ve known better before child psychology was a normal part of  dinner conversation. Life is about choices, was it that horrible that they sometimes chose other things in life (that were important to them) over their child? I chose to parent my kids this way but why should I expect others (my own parents) to give the same level of dedication?

Being a mother clarified what was important to me in life. It also made me more AND less judgemental toward other parents all at the same time, including my own. Then came a moment like this, where I realize that motherhood urged me to cherish, so I hold on but more importantly, it is teaching me to accept and the significance of letting go.

‘Ding’, the sound of the seat belt sign coming off pulled me back from my deep thought.  I quickly went back to my seat to be with my loved ones. We welcomed the announcement from the captain that we were through all the turbulence caused by weather and we would arrive half an hour early. As it turns out, there is a silver lining to everything.

It had been a long winter, and a bumpy ride, but the sunshine was right before us! image