The pros and cons of guilt

My girls tell me that my mothering skills are stellar.

Well actually they didn’t really tell me that.

What they did say is I’m good at making them feel guilty.

Apparently I’m good at it without even trying.

They say they know I’m not trying, but it doesn’t matter.

I can still do it.

The guilt thing.

When they told me that I hung my head in shame, but they chuckled and said it was okay.

“Consider it your super power,” they said.

I thought about it for awhile and decided that having a super power was probably not a bad thing, especially if you happen to be a mom and grandma and have lived a long time, at least long enough to feel you should have some kind of super power by virtue of age, if not wisdom.

My girls informed me that I had this super power to make them feel guilty when we sitting in the food court at the mall the other day.

How we all ended up here together was a bit of a surprise for me, but certainly not an unwelcome one.

In fact I was more than a little pleased to be sitting here with these two lovely ladies who happened to be my daughters.

Our discussion flowed easily, seamlessly, touching on a potpourri of subjects, ranging from Halloween costumes to the latest fashion to what to do for their brother’s birthday which was coming up soon.

It was a big birthday for him and so I suggested we do something special.

The girls were hesitant.

Does he even want that? they questioned.

Hanging out with your parents and your sisters is probably not that exciting for him.

“Girls,” I said, striving not to use my super power. “Of course he would want to hang out with us. He can do other stuff, too,” I mumbled. “Later!”

The three of us played a game of verbal ping pong for awhile, tossing around ideas and suggestions like so many balls in the air. It was finally decided we would text him and ask him what he would like to do.

“But I will text him,” said one of my girls, firmly.

“No,” I will, I said lightly, breezily. “I know just what to say.”

“No, mom, you can’t text him.” my daughter said he said. “You will make him feel guilty. You will stay stuff like, “this is your mom and I really want to see you on your birthday and so do your sisters. So when can we get together?”

I’m not sure how that constitutes guilt, but I obligingly said okay, fine, sulking only slightly.

“It’s your tone,” they said.

“It’s a text,” I protested.

“It doesn’t matter,” they said.

I conceded.

Since that day I have replayed that conversation several times in my head.

And it makes me smile, but still I ponder the guilt thing.

It is funny how every family has these unwritten rules that are written in this invisible book that everyone carries around in their head.

I have always prided myself on never going down, way down to the guilt level to get my kids to do what I wanted them to do. I have always told myself I did my very best to not influence their decisions in any way, shape or form, other than, of course, to wear a jacket because I was cold or to go have a nap because I was really tired.

I read somewhere that guilt is a useless emotion, hanging around like unwanted debris, garbage that hasn’t been taken out or scraps that need to go down the garburator.

But, even so, it does keep showing up like the cat who came back again and again. It can even catch you unawares one day when you are sitting at a coffee shop with your girls.

I’ve decided it is a super power and should not be discarded as a bad thing, but be used wisely.

And only when necessary.

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