Monday, March 12, 2012

Unsolicited Advice and Judgments Unfair


I salute all mothers who never offer advice unless asked. I wish I could emulate your fine example. My child complains that I am not one of those mothers. Alas, she’s right.

But isn’t that the job of being a parent? After all, our children might put their little, tender hands into fire or pump those little, pudgy legs right into the street if it were not for our advice and warnings, our ability to see harms before they occur. And once having perfected the art of guiding our children through the maze of a material world, I find it very hard to break the habit.

My own mother clamped her jaws shut many times, and I’m confident that she is mighty proud of her achievements. But (and this “but” should be read loudly, forcefully) she couldn’t resist offering her opinion later. Like water that simmers, bubbles, boils, and escapes as steam, her advice could not pass as calm waters do. She had to let it go and always at a most hurtful opportunity.

For example, my parents disapproved of my sister’s refusal to stake a claim over any money given to her and her second husband. He used the money for himself, and they didn’t like it. Still they remained mute about why their gift-giving habits changed and as far as I know, never spoke to my sister about it at all. The quantity of cash gifts was simply scaled back for her, her husband, for me and my husband. Each person thereafter received an envelope with a $50 bill inside a card.

I was surprised, but dismissed the change as a result of fixed incomes and was grateful. No bad feelings required--until my mother snapped when I mentioned that my husband and I planned to pool our money in order to enjoy a concert featuring a performer my husband much admired. Then the vinegar poured, and I marveled.

Isn’t a gift just that? A gift! Aren’t the recipients entitled to use the gift as they see fit? Is it beyond imagining that I might enjoy the performer as much as my husband? And even if I didn’t, I would enjoy holding his hand and being together. I wanted to pour a bit of vinegar myself, but I refrained.

Still, on balance, I think my parents, Mother in particular, mellowed over time and began to offer fewer and fewer tidbits of advice. I am on my way there, and now I understand why.

Young people are born with a microchip that requires them to believe that they are the first people to feel as they feel, do what they do, see what they see, hear what they hear, and to think and reason clearly. They simply aren’t interested in what my experience has been and therefore, they wish to ignore, or better yet, never hear, what I have to say. They will be ready to listen--one day, but while they are young and before they have children of their own, they are biologically driven to go their own way without the benefit of my warnings, guiding hand, or raised brows.

Now if only I can perfect the art of keeping my mouth shut.