Lin’s Bin: A Mother’s Advice

Last Friday for Mother’s Day, Lin’s Bin was about the advice a mothers gives a daughter. Here’s what I wrote. And also, a picture of my mother on a Harley.

(Photo From Lin Brehmer)

(Photo From Lin Brehmer)

Lee Ann writes, “Hi Lin, My daughter is 17, so she believes all advice from a mother is bad. I say she is wrong. What do you think?

The advice a mother gives a teenager isn’t bad. The advice might be good, but having to hear it from your mother? Bad.

The origin of this communication breakdown goes back to all the weird stuff your mother was compelled yet reluctant to tell you about becoming a woman.

Take it from me, becoming a woman isn’t easy.

Wait a minute.

Advice is not by definition good. There’s bad advice. There’s even bad advice from mothers.

I asked a number of women for memorable advice they received from their mothers.

Here are some of my favorites.

“Don’t be an architect. You’re not smart enough.”

“Smoke. You’ll lose some weight.”

“Have you considered joining the army?”

“Once you get a man started, he can’t stop.”

The mother-daughter relationship is a delicate one.

When you were born, your mother wrapped you up in a little blanket and took you home consumed with a tenderness more profound than the ferocity of instinct.

And even as she gave you a first bath in the kitchen sink, even as she dips you in warm water, she is flooded with memories of her own girlish anxieties.

She wishes you could be spared injury and heartbreak; she wishes she could save you from petty jealousy and gender prejudice.

And when you’re a little older she understands why you need to dress like a princess. Every day.

But most of all, she hopes she can resist the mother to daughter platitudes handed down through generations.

Then one morning when you’re seventeen, you’ll be driving to school, just the two of you.

And you’re thinking how close to freedom college is. How much better everything will be when you just get out of the house.

And your mom is thinking how empty words would be to express that ambivalence between pride for your independence and anguish for a second parting.

And the last thing she wants to do is revisit some advice that seemed so tired and silly when her mother said it to her. You’ve been through too much together. The long silences, the tearful truces, the haunting of impermanence.

As she drives you into the school parking lot, she can’t possibly succumb to a cliché even if it has fulfilled her own mother’s prophecy. She looks at you and can’t say it.

So I will.

When you have a child, you’ll understand.


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