As a young, liberal, Northeastern woman of Jewish heritage, with a Master’s degree under her belt- I can only imagine that moving to a small town in Georgia in the 1970’s was a pretty major culture shock for my mother. My father had gotten a job teaching at the University of Georgia and they moved to a suburb about 30 minutes from the university. This is where I grew up, and where my parents still reside to this day (if you’re reading this mom & dad- come move to California already!).
Growing up in our small Southern town, my parents weren’t like the others. We didn’t have a television, and my father (a lifelong rockhound) found a giant crystal that he placed in the space where a tv would normally go in our living room console. We didn’t go to church. We weren’t allowed to eat sugared cereals, white bread, or drink Kool-Aid. We ate wheat bread and traditional Polish foods that no one had ever heard of. My parents drove a mini van instead of truck, and no one in my family enjoyed hunting or fishing or sports. Needless to say, to a lot of people. my family was WEIRD.
My mother didn’t seem to feel the same pressure that I did to fit in. When my sister and I asked for Pound Puppies and Cabbage Patch Dolls, she sewed them herself. When our school system started banning books (yes, that really happened), she refused to throw them away from her shelves and almost got fired from her job as a teacher. We celebrated Christmas, but she made sure to include some reminders of our Jewish heritage, like a little menorah set and chocolate coins. Needless to say, I thought all of this was super LAME.
As an angst-ridden adolescent, I longed for a “normal” family. I even thought my name was too weird, and spent hours wishing I had a “normal” name like “Laura” or “Ashley.” My way of rebelling against my parents, or maybe my way of trying to be one of the popular cool kids, was by trying to fit into the Southern culture. I went to church with my friends, helped my friends’ parents set up deer licks, went muddin’, hung out with people with Confederate flag bumper stickers, and listened to lots of country music. I’m not saying any of those things are bad (except Confederate flags, those are real bad), but it was just a lot different than my parents.
As a parent now myself, aside from worrying about her physical health, probably my biggest worry for my daughter is that she will grow up with different values than those that my husband and I hold. And here is what I learned from my mother: Aside from those times when my physical health was in danger (e.g., riding a four-wheeler with no helmet) my mother never intervened or tried to stop me from trying these things no matter how much she personally may have disagreed with them. And lo and behold, somewhere around college I came full circle back to the artsy liberal weird-o I was raised to become.
My daughter is still a toddler but I already find myself having to let go and relinquish control a bit. She has her own voice and her own opinions already and sometimes it is very hard for me to honor her choices instead of imposing my will upon her. But what I have learned from my mother is that if I provide her with lots of love and support, and try to always lead by example, she will most likely come around to embracing my way of life.
Be sure to check out the creative women in the #TogetherWeMother Series by visiting their blogs below: