You know that weird jello salad that everybody’s Aunt Betsy brings to each and every gathering? That is my brain right now.
I’ve spent so much of the last 30 years trying to ensure my daughters grew up to be strong, thoughtful, and independent. Ever in fear of breeding another doormat into this already infested world, i wanted my daughters to become paragons of badassery in whatever way suited them. And as you know from previous posts, the efforts were successful. I am inordinately proud of the women my daughters have become. Tho very different from each other, they both are fierce in their passions and principles. They are hard workers, big dreamers, and fair judges. Everything i had asked for.
When you have adult daughters like that, it’s a bit like living in an underground women’s magazine of the 70s. Force them into polyester pantsuits and big sunglasses, and they could be on the cover of “Ms.” (Don’t worry, my awesome weedlings. No polyester pantsuits for you, i promise!) But just like so many of the celebrities of that political era, life is more than a magazine cover.
What good is a life of untamed equity if you have no one to share it with?
But it takes a special man (Or woman) to accept a badass woman as a partner. It isn’t for the weak, or the staunch, or the confidence-less. A warrior woman doesn’t want someone who just lets her take all the sun. Nor does she want someone who is going to constantly battle her for it. It has to be someone who can let that Light flow back and forth like one of those waves-in-a-box that are supposed to help keep you calm at work. The conduit between the two shores must be strong and clear, the water going over and around obstacles, precluding dams and producing energy that feeds the tides as it goes. It is a precious balance. One that some never find.
And yet, both my daughters have found it.
In a few short weeks’ time, both my woman-weedlings have gotten engaged to awesome men. Ones who respect them, support them, and adore them. Ones who are strong enough themselves to share the spotlight… Not just as a mechanism for leadership and recognition, but also as facilitator of growth. These men are amazing, and each also a badass in their own way. And so, on the whole, i am crazy happy for them having found partners who truly see them, get them, and love them.
Which brings us to the jello salad.
Jello salad is one of those things that can be really yummy. I mean, sugar and flavoring and food coloring has that magnetic appeal to the 5-year-old inside us. Throw in some fruit cocktail or pie filling…. Oh, yeah baby! There is usually some cream cheese or something thrown in to make it more adult and fancy. Mmm mmm! Love me some sweet and savory together! Toss in some marshmallows because… Well, because marshmallows!!!!! What’s not to like?
But then the devil steps in.
To distinguish it from “dessert”, Aunt Sally always throws in something “salad-y”: celery, pepper, shredded carrots… Crap like that which has no business being in jello.
In the midst of my heartwarmed-happy jello concoction for my daughters, there appears some of Aunt Sheila’s lunacy. (Oh, Aunt Sheila… Is that pickled onions i taste in here?) It took me a while to figure out exactly what it was. I mean, like i said, i am over the moon for my daughters and adore my soon-to-be son-in-laws… So what could those bitter, chewy bits possibly be? And why the hell are they in there?
I answered myself subconsciously but out loud.
I only just figured out parenting adults, but married adults is a whole other level. Especially for me. Lets face it, three past marriages make me the exact opposite of an expert on it. And before you joke that i should just tell them to obviously do the exact opposite of what i recommend, i promise you, that will make me cry.
Like Hermione, i kind of pride myself on being an insufferable know-it-all. But my daughters are about to embark on something i cannot help with. Yes, i realize they don’t really need my help, but that is beside the point. Mothers want to help. It’s what we do. And i can’t. That fact leaves me stumped. It is the carrot in my otherwise delicious jello salad.
The irony of it all… In having raised daughters without so many of my own issues, i have made myself obsolete.
So that’s what those crunchy bits are: self-pitying garbage.
When confronted with jello salad, one has three choices. You can refuse to eat it. While that is an option, it also means you miss out on all the good stuff in it. No marshmallows. No maraschino cherries. That is a big price to pay for a little bit of green pepper. Not an option i would choose because marshmallows!!!!
Or you can just force a smile and pretend you aren’t gagging every time a bit of celery finds itself in the mix. This is, of course, the polite option. And if i were at a once-in-a-lifetime visit with The Queen, i would probably take that option. But this isn’t a one-time gig. This is the rest of my life. And once i get past the celery, there will be grandbabies and other things that i know nothing about and will become the next crunchy bits. So this is probably not the best option.
Then there is the last option. The practical option. Enjoy the jello salad, but surreptitiously pick out the crunchy bits when no one is looking. Make sure there is a lettuce leaf somewhere on your plate to hide the shredded carrots under. Or a rabbit to feed them to, thereby disguising your disappointment as an act of kindness.
That, i can do.
Decades of therapy has made me pretty damned decent at picking out my useless negativity and turning it into energy for other things. So when i find myself thinking about my weedlings and their awesome partners and their limitless lives ahead and starting to wonder what purpose i can possibly serve in it; i will remember that i can and will be whatever they need. If i don’t know how, i will learn, just as i did when they were babies and i knew nothing of raising children. I learned. And if i didn’t always do it right, at least i did it well in the end. And when there are more wee ones, i can read to them like i did to my own. I can help teach them to be independent badasses like their parents. And i can help show them that sometimes you just have to pick out the sour bits and just be happy for all the wonderful things that will come to pass.
My babies are growing up and getting married.
If i make Aunt Shelly’s jello salad for the celebrations, I’m gonna leave out the celery. Who needs it anyway? Things are so much better without it.