Parenting From The Grave

by Laura

I had the great displeasure of spending the holiday weekend with my mother in law. Okay, fine, it wasn’t all bad. Nothing is all bad. For example, being part of a chain gang probably isn’t much fun, but I suspect it’s a great workout.

Anyway, one of my husband’s new books has an audio version, so we thought his mother would enjoy listening to it. I mean, that’s pretty cool, right? Hearing your kid’s story being read by a professional, with voices and everything? So we put it in. She listened, or allowed it to be played, for approximately one minute, then turned it off and went back to doing whatever she was doing.

She. said. nothing.

Nothing! How could anyone say NOTHING!? How hard would it be to say, “That’s pretty cool” or “Well, I’ll be!” or “Do you like it, Jay? Do you think the guy did a good job?”

Nothing. I cannot imagine it. If it were my kid, if my kid wrote something that became an audiobook, I would say something. Even if I didn’t like the book or didn’t like the reader’s interpretation, I would say something. My daughter said, “She didn’t say anything.” I said, “I know.” She said, “Even if I did something you didn’t like, like if I won a cheerleading competition or something, you’d say ‘Good job.'” “You’re right, ” I said, “I would.” Because it wouldn’t matter if it was something I didn’t care about. I would praise her effort and her accomplishment.

Now I’m not the easiest mom. I don’t praise things left and right. I’m more like my own mother. My mom could tell when I’d put effort into something, when I’d tried my hardest or done my best possible work, and she praised that. No matter what it was. She didn’t praise any old scribble or every good grade. But if I really tried, if I put in the time, she would recognize that. And I know for sure that if I’d written a book-turned-audiobook, my mom would have been thrilled. And she would have been thrilled for my husband. She was always rooting for him. First in line to buy his book, and to actually read it. She would follow the James Beard Awards on Twitter, excited to see if he’d win. She would have listened to that whole damn audiobook, a few chapters at a time, and she would have thought it was “really neat.”

And that’s when it hit me… My mom, who is no longer around to offer praise, is still more supportive than my mother in law, who is very much alive. Because when I do something well– which hasn’t happened that often in the last year, but here and there– I can still hear her. I can hear her being happy for me, congratulating me. I know exactly what would impress her, and I know precisely what she would say. Her supportive love is still with me. It didn’t go anywhere. She’s not here to say the words, but I still hear them. And I am so grateful for that. Oftentimes, hers was the only support I had, and strangely, it still is. It’s rather remarkable, isn’t it? How great parenting endures?

As for my husband, he’s shit out of luck. His mom’s a harpy.