Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Lessons in sharing
November 30, 2016
In the 1970s, there was a popular television commercial featuring actor Jack Gilford.
In the commercial, Gilford, while hiding a box of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts, has a conversation with a young boy,
"What did you learn in school today?" Gilford asks.
"Sharing," says the boy.
"Did you play any games?" Gilford says.
"Sharing," the boy responds.
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Whereby Jack turns over the treasured snack to the boy.
That ad resonates with me as my children become adults and I find myself wishing I could keep them all for myself. Learning to share my offspring with others is a work in progress.
While my husband and I have raised seven children together, we are only recently being faced with having them partnering up with long-term companions. No one has married or even gotten engaged.
Sure there was some girlfriend/boyfriend activity through high school, but I never saw any relationship that had "forever" marked on it. It was easy to have casual conversations or dismiss the not-so-pleasant ones for the temporary distractions — intrusions, diversions — that they were!
Fast forward a very few short years. I am becoming more and more aware of the reality of long-term partnerships and the effect they have on my offspring and me. Still, when the kids come home to visit and bring a significant other, on my turf, on my solid ground, it has been easy to navigate through the beginnings of getting to know them (quietly accessing their attributes and shortcomings).
It is in this arena I see myself as the quintessential over-protective MOM. To be sure, I feel lucky. The partners my children have brought home to date have been fine people. As I have come to know them, I have found many qualities I admire and I have developed a deep love for them.
The big challenge for me has come when I go to visit my kids and am living on their turf and am on not-so-solid ground. I realize I am bad at sharing. When my time feels so limited, I want to be with my child as much as possible and, as often as not, I want to be with them alone. It's unreasonable and it's selfish. The adult in me knows this. It's as important that I enjoy the couple as a visitor to their world and enjoy their interactions. It is not for me to sit in judgment and it is not for me to intrude. My head is very clear about all of this. It is a wonderful chance to make a new friend and connection in this world. I realize I need to be better at sharing.
I have not yet had to deal with the disappointment of a break up with an "other" I cared deeply for. I remember once my sister telling me if my niece broke up with her long time boyfriend, they were keeping him and the niece would have to go! Of course they were kidding, but it does make one consider how deeply and emotionally involved one can get. How do you maintain a relationship you once savored when the tide of emotion goes out for your off spring? I see friends who are, of course, loyal to their child but who also mourn the loss of the other side of the relationship when it ends. Maybe that is why I may keep my guard up a wee bit.
Instinctually I want to spare them the pain and mistakes that made up the fabric of my own life. When I see them heading down an eerily familiar path and see "breakdown straight ahead," it is natural to try to reroute them with a safe and soft detour. And honestly, it has very little to do with the person my kids are in love with. I know, on some level, it is my desire to rewind time just a bit so I can cradle them in my arms and sooth all of the wounds of the day. Back to the days when I had all the answers, could kiss away the "owies," put bandages on scraped knees and make things better with grilled cheese sandwiches, cookies and milk or a good story time.
Those days, hard as they were in the day-to-day of it, were such simple times.
Now, I am learning to stand back, trust in the character of the people I raised them to be and have faith they will use their own good judgment in making long-term choices. So far, so good. I will love who they love and I will do my best to share.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.