Lifestyle Opinion

One Mom’s View … Unmade Beds and Backseat Driving

Adria Giordano and her girls sit on the bed – that has been made – in her older daughter's dorm room. Courtesy photo

Thoughts and ruminations about being a working mom, raising two daughters, and being Italian … while trying to maintain my sanity and organized closets. (My husband’s laugh, red wine, and ironing make me happy.)

By Adria Giordano

When our girls were little, they made their beds. Every morning. It was something we did together when we woke up to begin our day. They eventually learned how to make their own beds, and it became part of their morning routine. Wake up, brush teeth, make beds, get dressed, brush hair, have breakfast, then off to school.

Somewhere after elementary school and before high school, hair, and eventually makeup, took up most of their morning routine, and there was little or no time for making beds. Eventually it fell off their morning routine altogether. My reminders went ignored, and my “this is the best way to begin your day” and “a made bed, means a more productive day” daily mantras also went ignored, as they grew into teenagers.

Teenage years are an altogether different journey … and instead of begging and pleading for them to make their beds, I decided to pick my battles, closed their bedroom doors, and moved on.

Speaking of journeys, no one tells you how hard it is to manage the teenage years. Not “manage” them, exactly, but how to go through them unscathed. And by unscathed, I mean our children yes, but I also mean ourselves, as well. It’s a crazy journey, filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, celebrations and battles, and just getting through the day is hard enough, without having to worry about a bed being made. Learning how not to “sweat the small stuff” but to focus on what truly matters, like are they okay, are they feeling happy or sad, or any other emotion, and how can I help them feel better, and if I can’t, how to just be there for them, holding their hand through it, is all part of being a parent.

As a mother, I used to think my role was more of a protector and comforter. And maybe it was that when they were little. Being their protector, comforter, teacher, was an easy role for me to understand. It came naturally, and I loved every second of it. I fixed boo boos, read to them at night, washed their faces and made their meals. I held their hand when crossing the street, taught them how to be kind, and yes, made their beds with them.

As my girls have grown into teenagers, and now older teens, my role has shifted. changed. Although I will always be fiercely protective of them and am always here to comfort them, I am learning to shift my perspective and help guide them into adulthood. Which means letting them make more and more of their own decisions, which is not always easy, especially if we have different views. Something I am working on. That and giving unsolicited advice.

This new role of being more of a guide, a mentor, and stepping back, does not come as easy for me. As I have said to my girlfriends a few times just this past month … Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. It’s the most joyous and greatest honor of my life, but it tugs at your heartstrings. ALL THE TIME. When your children are little, you have all the decision making power. It’s not even a thought. You just do. As they grow and become young adults managing their own lives – to sit back and watch, gently guiding and cheering on from the backseat is definitely harder. (Just ask my husband, I am a horrible backseat driver.)

My oldest daughter was recently home from college for her winter break, and this new role was put to the test more than once. Although she is growing into this amazing young adult, watching her choose her spring classes on her own was both wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time. She needs my guidance less and less, as she learns how to navigate her college years and make her own decisions.

Having her home for a little over a month has been wonderful and sad, joyous and challenging, as I learn how to be more of a backseat driver. It’s a good lesson to learn, as I will have another one quickly following in her footsteps. I am so happy she is on this journey and feel proud of the decisions she is making, but I would be lying if I said I don’t miss the younger years. The years when they both needed me, well, for everything. As they grow up, my hope is that they will hold their childhood memories close to their heart, and remember the values we instilled in them: be kind, help others and learn how to make a difference in the world. I also hope they will hold my hand along this journey, and forgive me if I make mistakes along the way.

Motherhood is definitely not for the faint of heart. But every now and again, when you feel like you are making mistakes, and sitting SO FAR in the backseat you feel as though you are in another car altogether – something comes along and reminds you that yes, you are still their mother, and yes they still need you. Just in a different way, now. It may be asking for advice, or even just sitting and talking over a coffee at Starbucks.

Learning who they are becoming has been a wonderful gift, and I am so lucky to be here with them, on their journey. I am also learning to sit back, listen more, and accept that being their mom means that some days I just listen, and don’t give advice. Just hold their hand as they make their way.

I shed a tear (maybe a few more) this morning, when my daughter left to go back to school. I hugged her, then held her hand and wished her an amazing spring semester, knowing she will have ups and downs, and I won’t be there with her. She hugged me back, saying not to worry, and “I’ll see you at Easter,” as she ran to meet her sister and father in the car, stopping to hug her pup once more. After an emotional morning, I climbed the stairs towards her bedroom, peeking in to see if she forgot anything. As I opened the door, I leaned in knowing how sad it would be to see her empty bedroom. Then I saw it: her perfectly made bed.

Adria Giordano is the Connecticut Executive Director of the American Heart Association, the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke funding innovative research, fighting for stronger public health policies, and providing critical tools and information to save and improve lives. She lives in West Hartford with her husband, two daughters, and adorable goldendoodle. 

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