My mom is coming to visit in two days. I can’t wait, and it’s not just because I’m two weeks into this three-week single parenthood stint and I desperately need reinforcements.
It’s because for the first time in years, I feel like I will be myself this visit. I’ve lived in another state for 13 years now, and every visit has caused me at least mild anxiety. Some visits have caused a lot of anxiety.
Take the Christmas when my entire family drove out and I turned into Martha Stewart. I decked the halls. I bought Anne Murray’s Christmas CD because it’s what we listened to growing up, and I threw in James Taylor just for good measure. I filled plastic bowls with snowmen on them with my mom’s favorite Christmas candy. My husband thought I’d gone mad. He's since learned to roll with it. When they visit, I'm on high alert.
I’ve talked to friends about this anxiety thing, and they all nod in recognition. One friend said she and her husband have a Las Vegas-style agreement when their parents visit: bad behavior and whatever mean things they say to each other are forgiven and forgotten. They blame it on the stress of hosting parents. I can relate to that. Just once I’d like my parents to leave town without wondering if I’m on the brink of divorce.
Why should a visit from our parents cause us angst?
I have a theory that it is the “look at me” syndrome. My preschool daughter constantly wants me to watch her antics and feats of strength. She is trying to impress me. She wants my praise. No matter how old we get, when it comes to our parents, we sometimes revert to acting like preschoolers.
I think this craziness is enhanced when you move away. There is an unshakeable need to show your parents that you made the right choice: Look at me! See how great my life is! Aren’t I so grown up?
So instead of enjoying our time with our parents, who we may see only a few times a year, we knock ourselves out trying to impress the people who likely already love us more than anyone else does in the world.
My friend’s parents visited at Christmas-time and she said it was the first visit where she felt relaxed. It was because she decided to drop the charade and just be authentic.
It’s a brilliant concept and one I plan to follow this week. After all, how much sense does it make to try to impress the woman who once wiped your butt and shoved mashed carrots into your mouth while making airplane sounds?