Guest post: A Daughter’s Pain, A Mother’s Strength

Num-Num wrote this for you guys, after reading all your kind comments about her post on parenting adult children:

I’ve been thinking about Dorothy Rodham lately. You know, Hillary’smom?

Dorothy Rodham was 89 years old, on June 4th, the day after her daughter lost the Democratic nomination for president. She looks younger than her years and centered, with a wide smile. Still…89? You’ve got to hope that by then your children will have ceased to need you. But she’s never stopped being a mother and, according to all reports, remains very close to her daughter and to her granddaughter. The few times I spotted the three women together on television, they were drawing strength from one other.

Dorothy Rodham had a dreadful childhood and a fifties-type marriage. Hugh Rodham ruled the roost. The few descriptions of her marriage in print hint at emotional abuse. The story of her parents’ abandonment of her, and her paternal grandparents’ cruelty lead you to believe that life with a domineering husband, if that’s what he was, and her children in a Chicago suburb was light years better than her past.

So how, I wondered,  would she deal with her daughter’s great disappointment? In my last post about how to parent an adult child, many of you liked the idea of keeping one hand lightly on the small of your child’s back and sending brownies. I’m not sure that would do the trick in this instance. After reading a bit about Dorothy Howell Rodham,  I asked some friends what they would say to Hillary, if they were her mother.

First me:  I’d bring a mega-box of tissues with me,  and I’d spend a long time listening. I’d probably need more than a few tissues myself. I’d bring some good chocolate with hot peppers in it (Whole Foods, natch),  because Hillary loves hot peppers and she needs chocolate. I’d tell her to go easy on the Bourbon and beer now that she’s off the campaign trail. But if a shot of schnapps, like the one my grandmother downed every night of her adult life, got her through the night for a while, well, okay. After all, Hillary has a track record of extraordinary discipline.

I’d control myself and not give vent to the anger I would be feeling because of the way she’s been treated, because she lost, and because I’d do anything to punish the people who hurt her. I’d keep telling myself that wouldn’t do any good, not for her, not for me. I’d tell her how proud I am of her and I’d also tell her that the 17 million who didn’t vote for her were plain stupid. Others could be easy on them, but I’m her mother.

A good friend, and one of Moxie’s Moms, had an important Don’t:  “Don’t tell her to suck it up, don’t tell her it wasn’t that important, and don’t tell her she’ll be fine! Don’t tell her your own stories of disappointment or turn the convo somehow to how her hurt hurts you.. Help her wallow a teeny bit.”

Another friend who was passionate about Hillary told me that she should Dump the Chump. Not really, she adds. Really, though, my friend would keep her away from news and public appearances, she’d bring in some silly films and comfort food. She’d encourage the tears (after all, you always stop) and she’d take her on a vacation, bringing Chelsea along.

The women I spoke with emphasized that when Hillary was ready, Dorothy ought to encourage her to keep on believing in herself and in the causes she worked for. When your child, no matter how old she is and how old you are, has processed the hurt, do what you can to help her up on the horse again. Maybe, just do something outrageous yourself, just to set a good example.