Part II of my interview with Lydia:
Is there anything you would have done differently as a mother?
I think I did a darn good job. When I did go back to work, I picked someone who was very much like me –– was loving and kind, like a grandmother. She would say to my mother, “Your daughter is an angel, the way she works and treats them and runs the house.” I did things naturally and did the best I could and I enjoyed my kids at every stage.
When Louise got older, we got her a credit card to Bergorf Goodman, and she made some mistakes and we laughed at some of the dresses she bought, but she learned how to dress herself. I see her in the morning and I tell her “Oh Louise, you look beautiful. You look like you just stepped out of a band box.” Everyone at work thinks she dresses so beautifully, the way an executive should dress. So you provide experiences at every level. They keep growing and you keep advancing your role with your children. I’ve never been disappointed in Ned or Louise. Little things – like I wish Ned’s handwriting was better – but you can’t really complain about that.
Did you ever have issues re: trust with your children when they were older?
I would want Louise home at midnight. Louise never…really we never had any bad fights, no, we didn’t. She just she just felt that we were a good pair, mom and daughter, we had a good relationship and I would try to explain the things as best I knew as a nurse.
My kids have never really disappointed me as far as any aspect of their leaving home. We would scold them – like when we gave them a car in college and said they had to share a car – and I remember Ed said to Ned, “I don’t want you to drive that car until you read the whole manual and you will call me when you are finished and I will quiz you on it.”
And Louise still says, “Mom you are my role model and I love you for what you have done for me all my life.” We discuss our problems – she will tell me her problems even at her age – she’s going to be 60 this year – can you imagine? We communicate every Saturday or Sunday and we talk for one hour. I talk to Ned twice a week. We’ll just have a chat – he’ll say, “Is anything bothering you mom?” – and I’ll say “Is anything bothering you?” – so it goes on all your life.
I think that I was strict enough, and yet I gave them rein and they responded appropriately and we worked out our problems and I always followed the rule – take care of their problems when they’re small. I remember when Louise was in high school and didn’t understand a problem in math and I said “Let’s go see the teacher,” and the teacher said, “Oh, I didn’t know you didn’t understand,” and from then on Louise kept on her math skills and she almost got an 800 on her SAT, and her whole career was in math. If parents let those problems get by, they get bigger. I think just doing that one thing got her over the hump and her whole career turned out to be in maths.
You have to observe, diagnose and take appropriate action. And be consistent every day.
What’s the worst piece of parenting advice you ever received?
I can’t say that I ever got any bad advice from anybody about parenting – everyone thought I was doing a very good job with my kids. Ned and Louise, they were proud of me. Like when I was head of the PTA at the school, kids would say, “Your mom is the president!” They were so happy that their chests just stood out.
As a matter of fact I even met with the school because the children weren’t making the scholarship school across the street –– so I said there’s something wrong with the curriculum that no child ever made the scholarship school. And I’m so proud, because when I read in the church bulletin that six children made the school, I felt happy that I was able to do that.
Or when I told the Latin teacher, “You know all the kids hate your Latin course. They’re not enjoying it — you ‘ve got to change the course and make it more at their level.” He did. I did things like that. When I went back to work, they were proud of me at Lenox Hill and I became the director of my own department. I did things to make them feel proud of me.
Do you have any other thoughts about parenting that you’d like to share?
With my nursing background, I think in terms of goals – and the goal of a mother is to develop the mind, the body and the spirit of the child. You have to be a role model to reach those goals, a teacher and a disciplinarian – you are dealing with the mind, the body, and the spirit of the child.
You have to have one hand on – guidance and values – and the hand that’s off is to allow the child to become an individual and to grow.
I naturally smile. I naturally am comforting. Just hug and touch your child, and encourage him and praise him. But you have to constantly be aware of their growing needs as they grow.
It was a tremendous experience. I know we’ll always be close. We’re family forever. And I just like that feeling that we did this, and it was a lifetime of work, and I think it enriched us and it made us more understanding people too.
She makes it sound so easy. How I appreciate the practical wisdom embedded in her words.
At times I’ve been so terrified of sending my children into therapy that I’ve second guessed myself. Was I too harsh that time I forced my son to go to his tennis lesson when he didn’t want to? Too much of a pushover when I acquiesced to his demands for a third round of snacks in bed?
Since becoming a parent, I’ve had to establish routines, which don’t always feel easy for someone who fed off spontaneity and adventure for so many years. I haven’t always been so great at setting consistent rules. It’s not in my DNA.
But being a role model — that’s an idea I can fall back on, gain strength and renewal in — when my parenting resources seem to be running dry.
How bout you? What do you think about or fall back on when you need a parenting boost?