It’s raining here.

It doesn’t rain here often, but when it does, it always reminds me of the code my parents used, long before I was born, when my dad used to travel for work.  He would call my mom from the road, and at some point during the conversation, one of them would say, “It’s raining here,” instead of “I love you.”

When I was growing up, “I love you’s” were not tossed willy-nilly around our house.  Not that I ever doubted my parents’ love.  They were just ill-equipped to express it.  I blame their stern Midwestern upbringings.  My dad grew up on a dairy farm.  (To this day, he’s often more affectionate with animals than with people.)  I never knew my grandparents from that side of the family, but from what I’ve heard* I can’t picture many snuggly, warm-and-fuzzy demonstrations of affection happening in that house.  My mom’s family was no different.  We’re just not an emotional bunch (at least, not in front of other people).

My older brothers (let’s call them Bubba and Bruno) showed affection for each other, me, or my little sister by wrestling or picking on us.  Of the two of us, my little sister’s reaction was always much more dramatic, which made her the bigger target for Bruno’s physical and verbal attacks.  I was less fun because my reactions were so low-key.  Even in high school, I was so reserved that a teacher once said she had a hard time “reading” me.

Later, when I went off to college, my mom would give me long hugs and say, “Love you, baby,” at the end of a weekend home, although I was not quick to say I loved her back.  The closest Bruno ever got was saying “Love you like a hamster.”  And I was in college the first time I saw my parents hold hands.  Really.

So I was caught a little off guard when Hubby, from the beginning, was not shy about expressing his feelings for me.  He would tell me what he was thinking (gasp!), hold my hand, or squeeze me tight.  After eight years together, I’ve gotten to the point of being more ooey-gooey, lovey-dovey than he is–as long as it’s in the privacy of our home.  But I’m still not like that with anyone else.  Even with my own siblings, it’s rare to hear or see expressions of love.  As Bubba is fond of saying, “We put the ‘funk’ in dysfunctional.”  I think we’re getting better, though.  It sometimes takes a tragic event, like the sudden passing of my mother, but in those moments, someone looking in wouldn’t know they were witnessing a lightning strike.  It comes naturally to us on the occasions we need it most.

I hope that with our own (future) children, Hubby and I will encourage healthy emotional expression of all kinds.  I hope our family will be more demonstrative than my own family was.  I don’t want our kids to feel stifled in any way.  I want to teach them that even negative emotions are okay when expressed appropriately.  As one of my colleagues often says when she’s dealing with aggressive children, “It’s okay to be mad, but it’s not okay to hit/bite/punch your mom in the stomach.”

I picture myself being a certain kind of mom: warm, open, encouraging, affectionate–but even I know my expectations may be a little high.  I want to be one of those moms who somehow both fosters independence and gets their kids to tell her everything that goes on in their lives.  The kind who handles public tantrums with grace.  Who curbs bad behavior with a look.  I’m not sure I’ll ever reach those heights of sainthood motherhood.  Still, I know I will love my children, and I plan on letting them know that with my words and actions every single day.

*My dad’s favorite story about his mother is that, when he was little, she used to put eggs in the oven, and when they exploded, she would tell him Hitler was coming.  Yes, my dad is that old, and this is where my sick sense of humor comes from.

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19 thoughts on “It’s raining here.

  1. I could have written this almost exactly the same about my family. When we got married, my dad performed the ceremony and afterwards, being emotional, I hugged him and said “I love you” and he just grunted. He grew up in Nebraska and my mom in Ohio, so I wouldn’t be surprised about that Midwestern thing. Like you, I actively want to do things differently with my kids in the future. I would hate not to be able to return the sentiment at my child’s wedding.

    • My mom’s from Nebraska–I was born there. It’s definitely got its own, uh, charm? The first time my dad approached me for a hug was Christmas. As in Christmas 2011. Three months ago. That’s progress.

  2. I recognize this as well, the no-no of expressing emotions while growing up, a bit of pretending that everything is okay even when it wasn’t and therefore me talking about difficult things more with my oldest sister than my mother. I’m better at it now but it has taken a lot of time.

    • My younger sister still has a difficult time expressing her emotions, and actually has become more closed-off as she’s gotten older (she was the drama-child). In a way, I suppose it’s a good thing that we can attempt to be more emotionally evolved than our parents. Let’s hope so, anyway!

  3. I want to be that mother too! I guess it depends on the child as well.

    It’s interesting, we are kind of stereotypical Mediterraneans. I do agree that being emotionally expressive and physical with loved ones is generally a good thing but there is always another side, I think. My father could have used a bit more control over his emotions- or at least the negative ones. He was quite capable of breaking the tv one moment and then smothering you with hugs and kisses the next. Still, it makes me really happy that g is an incredibly affectionate little boy. One of my friends told me recently that this trait will be appreciated by future partners. I hope so.

    • Oh, my mom could yell and scream and cry like a champ. Mostly at my dad. But the sincere, heartfelt emotion, not so much. Any of us. I’m still learning!

      I’m sure g will be a little heartbreaker! In a good way 😉

  4. I think you’re going to be a great momma. Your husband’s ooey-gooeyness will mix well with the more conservative with the lovin side of you, I think.

    I want to try this exploding egg trick, but I’m worried it will make a mess in the oven…

      • Sometimes I think I am and sometimes I think I hold them too tightly. I want what my parents have which is three independent kids who also love being with them and talking to them and including them in everything.

  5. Hi! I’m here via ICLW. I loved this post and how you painted pictures with your words. I especially loved that last bit about your sense of humor. Cracked me up! I think all of us want to be that parent, who is calm under any pressure and who raises balanced civic minded geniuses. That’s my goal anyways, lol. Unfortunately I am probably overly protective and paranoid. But then my child is also a complete daredevil. I believe she must be made out of rubber and that is the only reason we haven’t had any broken limbs as of yet. Knock on wood.

  6. What a lovely post. I think recognizing a pattern is the best way to break it. I love the motherhood/ sainthood crossout. Totally made me laugh. Good luck and thanks again for a great post.

    • Thanks so much, Peg! Yeah, that’s the idea, to break the pattern, although I doubt I’ll ever reach the heights of my own expectations. Still, it’s worth a shot. Thanks for visiting!

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