I learned from the best

June 2019
Phyllis Shragge

Click. The link is highlighted. Another click. The link is sent. How easy it is to send my adult children a news story supporting my view on anything and everything. In a flash, I can send the American Pediatric Society’s guidelines on screen time. Hey — I believe this is valuable information that would benefit my grandchildren. Or I can send a link to a story praising Canada’s Food Guide or maybe a link to a piece about young adults needing measles booster shots. With this approach, I can advise my children on any number of subjects without risking being accused of the worst crime imaginable: telling your children what to do.   

I learned this technique early on, from an expert, my mother. And I have turned into my mother. Sure, she sent news stories the old-fashioned way by clipping stories from the newspaper, popping them into an envelope and sending them off in the mail. Yes, my way may be more efficient, but the end result is the same. By sending my grown children documentation supporting my perspective on an issue, I am validating my stance. That’s not so terrible, is it?  I’m not telling my children what to do.  Am I? No, I’m just providing my children with facts. 
When I reflect on the fat envelopes full of newspaper clippings that turned up in my mailbox at least monthly, I remember my mixed feelings. On one hand, I appreciated my mother’s good intentions. I know she must have been frustrated living in Winnipeg while I, a mother of five children, lived so far away in Hamilton. She wanted to be there for me, especially since my husband was a busy surgeon with long hours.
Regular phone calls and occasional visits to Hamilton were fine, but in my mother’s eyes, not enough. She wanted me to benefit from her expertise, from what she learned over the years as a mother. So from her point of view, newspaper articles were the answer. I can imagine my mother scouring the Winnipeg Free Press or the now defunct Winnipeg Tribune and discovering a story that was relevant to me. It might be about the benefits of breast feeding or the importance of exercise for a young mother. I can imagine her saying, “Aha!” out loud, rushing to find her scissors in the kitchen junk drawer, racing back to the living room and snipping out the article. 
And yet, when I received the envelopes of newspaper clippings in the mail, I felt a bit of resentment. Did my mother doubt my ability to handle my life without her input? Why did she insist on sending me those annoying clippings? When I look back on those days, I wish I had been more appreciative. Now, I would give anything to receive an envelope full of newspaper clippings, but it is not to be.  
My mother died in 2008 at the age of 99 ½. She had a wonderful life, full of love, travel and adventures. I think, though, that one of her greatest joys was discovering experts who agreed with her about the way her kids should be doing things. She knew she was right. Now she had the proof.
Are my kids annoyed when I send links to news stories? I wasn’t fooled by my mother’s tactics. I suspect my kids are on to me too. Will I stop doing it? Not on your life.  
Phyllis Shragge is a writer, mother of five, and grandmother of four.