By TED ROBERTS, the SCRIBBLER ON THE ROOF
Mothers, raising kids is no picnic. That is not news. Besieged parents need all the help they can get. So let me suggest we might benefit from a counseling session with a 17th century matron – a prodigious mother named Gluckel of Hameln (with that name you gotta be good). Does the city sound familiar? It should. It’s Hamelin of Pied Piper fame. Remember the charismatic guy with the flute leading all the kids to the riverbank? Well, it wouldn’t have worked if Mother Gluckel had been around.
Sadly, Gluckel died in 1724, which prevented her from hosting the greatest TV talk show ever about parents and kids! But she left us a legacy in the form of her memoirs.
This worthy woman lived many centuries ago in Germany; the product of a well to-do family who was given in marriage at the age of 14 . (She must have been a beauty with a generous dowry to overcome that name.) The adolescent wife blossomed into Motherhood and produced twelve children. But even more important than enriching her local obstetrician – she somehow found time to write her memoirs.
Long long ago, this supermom understood a childrearing mystery that we haven’t yet figured out. The question: Why don’t our kids write more often, or call – say once a week? Why don’t they love us more?
For 18 years mother fills their little minds with wisdom, wipes their little runny noses, and loads up their little arms with presents. And what do we get in return, Zippo! Every three months, Citibank, no kin whatsoever, writes us a cheery, chatty note attached to a new credit card. Citibank, this total stranger, writes regularly while from your Sidney – not a word.
Let’s face it, no matter how much love, how many gifts you give your kids, they’ll never reciprocate with the constant, intense love you demand.
The great puzzle is WHY. Particularly since you’re a prince of parents. Generous, entertaining, caring. An all ‘round fascination to the rest of the human race. (Citibank is not your only correspondent. There’s Amoco, Chemical Bank, and the restaurant that sends you a coupon redeemable for a free iced tea.)
Well, this is the conundrum that Gluckel of Hameln examined and explained; she tells us of a mother eagle who must ferry her brood over a wide sea to a new nest. Four fledglings depend on her – four perilous trips. She fights a head wind, her wings grow weak, and there’s far to go. “Do you love me?” asks the eagle of her first charge “and will you promise to repay me for this?
“Yes, I swear,” pipes the child.
The mother knows a lie when she hears one so she drops her burden into the sea. Same story with eaglet two and three. But the forth child gives the universally honest answer for offspring of every breed. “mother,” it says, “I can only promise that when I have my own children, I shall do as much for them as you have done for me.”
The debt will be paid in full, but only to your grandchildren.
The weary mother knows the truth when she hears it. So she fights the wind and fatigue, finally bringing this child and the father of her grandchildren safely to the shore. There’s a lot of wisdom in that parable.. Family love, like rivers, doesn’t flow uphill, but mostly down.
So console yourself. Your kids, who NEVER even send you a postcard, will likewise receive no postcards from THEIR loving, but busy kids. Moreover, one day over a nice cup of tea at the kitchen table, they’ll ask your advice on this problem; “Mom, I’m telling you they never call or write. I send presents – nothing comes back. What is it with kids?” Sip your tea, look thoughtful, then tell them the fable of Gluckel.