Checking in with your Mom
From October 1985 to October 2012 I called my mother every day between 9 and 10 am to check in. We usually talked for less than five minutes. When you ‘check in’ every day there’s not often that much to check in about.
When I was a kid I didn’t connect much with my parents or family. Leaving home at 17 severed what connection there was. Then at about 19 the lights came on. I began to concern myself very much with family, connections and community. Truth is, I did a lot of dumb stuff and came to the point I felt I had a lot to make amends for. It wasn’t easy. It took years to rebuild trust, respect, and understanding.
It might be that the day you become an adult is the day you realize what a terrible person you were to your parents; and whatever their faults and foibles, you of all people do not get to be the judge of them.
After I left home and moved close to the university I was doing good in life but still, like many young people, I’d go weeks without visiting or talking to my Mom. Each eventual visit became a big catch up. She worried when she didn’t hear from me, she wanted to know what was going on, and she wanted to share family connections and her own experiences.
In the fall of 1985 I got that. Finally. I started calling each morning to check in. Our stories are so important. Through many of those days life was just a bunch of stuff that happened. It was only through the process of checking in and sharing stories with my Mom did life become a story with meaning, purpose, and direction. I noticed that I’d filter the things that happened to me to suit my ‘mom-rated’ audience. After a while I got thinking of it as a decision tool for my life choices. Was this something I’d enjoy telling my Mom about on the phone tomorrow morning? If not, why was it important? No one ever went too far astray in life doing only the things their Mom would approve of.
When cell phones came along it got even easier. I remember how much fun those first walk and talks were. Still to this day walking to work in the morning I’ll take the phone out of my pocket and think of dialing. That’s a poignant feeling. My Mom passed away in 2012.
Now cell phones can send pictures and video, and life… well… I sure would like to be able to call her and check in.
I’ll often use the time to call someone I haven’t talked to in a while. Someone I should check in on to see what they are doing. Someone whom I genuinely want to share stories with. And when I need to tell my story I have an older friend, a woman I admire, respect, and enjoy, who has taken on the role of listener. I check in with her. I’m so grateful to have that connection.
Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” and “The Four Tendencies,” says the key to connecting is in the mundane details. Her family does a thing they call ‘update’, where once every couple days each sends a family email about the most mundane, boring, details of their lives. The idea is that though the details of life may seem boring it’s through the sharing of them, the giving and receiving, that the deepest of life’s connections are made.