Dear Vicki: I need help relating to my mother. When I was growing up, she never acted like my friend’s moms; we had no cookies, no cuddles, nothing warm and fuzzy. Instead, we had rules and order in a well-run household of five (she had three children). But now that I’m grown, she treats my children very differently. They get cookies and treats! Honestly, if I wasn’t so busy at my accounting firm, I’d be a little worried she is spoiling them. And where was this side of her when she was raising me? Signed: Daughter of a Changed Mom
Dear Daughter: This is an excellent question because it offers an opportunity to discuss an aspect of the Five Elements personalities called “lacking.” As we have said in this blog many times, we are born with all five elements in our personality make-up. But one of the elements takes center stage as our primary element and it’s through the filter of this element that we live and interact with the world around us. Sometimes, however, even though we are born with an element in a primary position, something in our life can make it unsafe or undesirable for us to express that elemental personality. Then as we age, life shifts enough for us that we can eventually begin expressing the suppressed element. When that happens, it can look like we’ve experienced the mother of all personality changes (pun completely intended).
I suspect that your mother might have been born a primary Earth personality and for some reason in her childhood, it became necessary for her to suppress it. Perhaps her parents were concerned that she was a clingy child (Earths usually need close relationships more than other elements) and chastised her for that behavior. Or maybe organization and process were so highly valued in her family that she worked to manifest those traits, which are attributes of a Metal personality, to win the approval so desired by her Earth. If that structured behavior was sufficiently reinforced for her, she well might have carried her Metal approach to life into her mothering since raising a family the “right” way would be very important to both a Metal and an Earth (lacking or not).
Now that you’re grown and are a mother yourself, your mother might feel it’s safe to venture into the “warm and fuzzy” Earth arena with your children because you are providing structure for them. I say this because, as an accountant, you likely have a true Metal personality style yourself and Metals believe structure is very important. In a way, your easy ability to create the well-run household she tried to create as a mother might be allowing her to explore her natural Earth personality.
Of course, this will feel very odd to you. As a Metal child, you would have naturally expected Earthy mothering from your mother because Earth and Metal relate on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model with Earth feeding Metal. You might have resented the lack of cookies and cuddling from her that your friends received from their moms. But hopefully, your Metal personality appreciated the structure your mother brought to the home and family. You should also be grateful that your Metal personality mom would not have brought the over-involvement and smothering attention that can easily occur when there is too much Earth energy in a parenting style. It’s probably not lost on you that, in fact, you are likely mothering your children the way you were mothered.
In truth, it sounds like you don’t have time to bake cookies and fuss over your children a lot yourself, so it could be a blessing that your mother is available to do so. Your children certainly appreciate their Earthy grandmother and it takes some of the pressure off of you. It does sound like a win-win for all as long as you can move past the fact that your children are receiving a benefit from your mother that you didn’t have. And I’m sure you can; Metal personalities detach easily once they see it is the right thing to do.
But there is one more important point to consider here. Your mother expressing more Earth energy in her personality is a blessing for your family, but it is also something to celebrate for her. It means she may finally be comfortable expressing her true self, which is an important step: At a personality level, she is coming home to herself in a very healing way. And honestly, it can be a healing for you, too, if you allow it. It’s never too late for cookies and cuddles, whether you are a Metal or Earth mother or daughter. I encourage you to embrace and enjoy both!