If you know me or you've read any of my other blogs, you already know that I'm an OCD perfectionist. Some of that is genetic. Some of it is deeply ingrained because of my childhood. My parents, even as loving as they were, were not easy people to please. They had high expectations and were not afraid to tell me. There were times that I doubted their love because I felt like I never made them happy. I was convinced that they would never be happy until I achieved absolute perfection.
The problem with being a perfectionist is that you are constantly aware that perfection doesn't exist. There's always, always, always a flaw somewhere.
I remember when I was a teenager asking my mom why she couldn't ever just be proud of me. She said, "Of course I'm proud of you. I tell people all the time about the things you do. Everyone knows I'm proud of you."
My reply - "You don't say it to me."
She was shocked and horrified and hurt, as any mother would be. I had just told her that she was doing it wrong, that she was a bad mom who ruined my life. I'm guessing that's what she heard. It's what I would have heard.
Fast forward over a few bumpy years.
When I was just 24, Mom was in the hospital for her 2nd heart stent placement in as many years. She had developed high blood pressure and diabetes in her 20s and those had taken their toll. Now, we were all about to pay the price.
As she lay in the hospital bed napping off and on, I sat beside her reading my book. We would talk about nothing in particular when she was awake. There was nothing earth-shattering about those hours. Then, out of the blue, I caught her looking at me. Suddenly, she blurted out, "I'm so proud of you. I hope you know that."
Those would be some of the last words she ever said to me.
Not long after that, the nurse came in to help her to the restroom. I stepped out to get some lunch. When I got back, she was unresponsive. They worked for over and hour, but she never recovered.
Those would be some of the last words she ever said. Ever.
My entire life, my mother had smothered me with hugs and kisses, only to be pushed away. I had no use for that. I like personal space and boundaries. She wanted to spend ALL the quality time with me. I'm an introvert. I actually like to be alone.
All I wanted were those words. "I'm proud of you." That's all I ever wanted. Her love was all around me, but I couldn't find it. The harder I looked and the more upset I got, the harder she tried and the louder she yelled it. But, I couldn't understand it because it wasn't my language.
I don't know why she chose to speak those words right then. I wasn't doing anything to merit them at that moment. I hadn't brought home a great report card or gotten a job promotion or cured cancer. I was just sitting in a hospital room reading a book. But, I will be eternally grateful for the gift of knowing way down deep that she really was proud of me. I carry those words with me every day.
If you have children, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to know what their love language is and how to communicate with them. You may think that you are giving them everything you have, but they may not be able to feel or hear it if what you're doing or saying is not the way that they understand love. The way they relate to their Heavenly Father is shaped by the way they relate to their parents. It's hard to believe that someone you've never seen loves you and is proud of you and would do anything for you if you don't believe that about the parents you see every day. It's your job to learn their language. Don't let them feel isolated and alone because they can't understand what you're saying.