Posted by: Deborah Drezon Carroll | March 18, 2011

Dear Mom, You’ve Hlepd Me Enough!

When Tamra was in first grade and just learning how to write, she wrote the note above. It was on a day when I was particularly busy and/or distracted and I guess she was asking me to do something for her or with her and I just didn’t have the time at that moment. She asked repeatedly (you know how some kids are broken records when it comes to that sort of thing) so at some point I guess I just FIRMLY told her to stop asking because I just didn’t have the time to help her just then. I wasn’t much of a screamer (believe it or not with three kids) so my very firm answer probably scared the crap out of her. She disappeared into her room and wrote the note (in crayon and not in a pretty color so it really ripped my heart out) and slipped it under the door. “You’ve hlepd me enough” was her way of saying with a bit of an angry attitude, that she didn’t need me after all, she’d figure out whatever it was on her own. And, I suppose she did because she’s 28 now and just fine.

But, it makes me wonder — what is enough when it comes to being a parent? Look, I know I’m somewhat annoying, and way too much in everyone’s business, and a bit over-functioning as a mom. I send too many meant-to-be-helpful emails about job openings. I offer opinions even when I’m not asked. I give unsolicited advice despite the hundreds of times I’ve explained to my girls that no one really wants advice. And while I can easily identify my friends who suffer from the same affliction (I’d name you but you all know who you are), and swear I’m not as bad as they are, I admit I am an addict and could probably benefit from a 12-step program for mothers of adult children who can’t back off.

But, secretly — well not so secretly because I’m putting it on this blog– I do it because I believe I’m helping my daughters and that I still have wisdom worth imparting. I don’t think I’ve yet “hlepd” them enough.

Girls? What do you suggest to us moms who may be confused about when enough is enough?

Tamra Writes:

First of all, I’m 27, and for that matter, if anyone asks, I’m 21, so let’s just set that straight.

I think that if you are going to be an overbearing mother, and let’s face it, there’s a lot of you out there, that you need to at least be prepared to have people be annoyed with you. People don’t generally like to be told what to do, especially if they didn’t ask. Since I am not currently in an argument about something that I didn’t ask for advice about, I guess I am able to think more rationally, but I think that a lot of times, I want the advice, I just don’t want it when it’s being told to me. I want to hear it, I want to complain about hearing it and get angry, and then later, when I’m ready, I can think about it and decide what to do. The fact that you overbearing mothers sometimes expect instant gratification when you’ve butted in, is really not a realistic expectation.

My advice, not that you asked, is continue to give the advice, but know when you’ve really crossed your boundary, and don’t expect to be greeted with open arms and lots of gratitude, at least not right away.

When people feel like they are in crisis, the last thing they want to hear (at least for me), is someone’s simple solution. When you feel like your world is crashing down, sometimes you just want someone to say, “You’re right, your life is a mess, how do you go on each day?” Rather than some rational “take action” advice, which I’ll probably do after I have a meltdown. I think if mothers are able to keep a good boundary, they might even find that their children actually ask them for advice before they have to butt in.

I guess I was a little premature to declare at the age of 6 that I had enough hlep. I think everyone always wants hlep, whether they think they do or not. My advice (again, who’s asking?), tread lightly, and just don’t get too frustrated when you get hung up on or receive a nasty email about how you are ruining your child’s life and owe them for all of the therapy sessions they’re going to need.

Again, I’m not 28.

Alexis writes: Judy Gold (a comedian who is also a lesbian) once said this about her children “I feel bad for my kids. I mean they have two Jewish mothers, wouldn’t you kill yourself?” It’s true that mothers get a bad rap for being too involved in their children’s lives. But it’s hard, they’re mothers, are they supposed to just stand by and watch their children make horrific mistakes?

I think giving advice is a lot like being a good comedian– it’s all about delivery and timing. Even the funniest joke can be completely unfunny if told at the wrong time. Advice is the same way. I agree with Tamra that when we children confide in our parents about things, we are probably (at least indirectly) asking them to weigh in about the issue, even if we don’t realize it. But even the best piece of advice can be misconstrued into the rudest comment if it’s not discussed at the right time. Tamra is right about instant gratification, mothers are not comedians who will be getting a laugh instantaneously proving that what they said was good. Chances are the closest thing to instant response the advice-giving mom is going to get is an abrupt hang-up.

It’s our instinct as adult children to prove to our parents that we can take care of ourselves. I think that sometimes people feel that if they need to ask their parents for help all the time, they’re not really independent. And let’s face it–there are plenty of adult children out there who rely too heavily on their parents. So it’s a slippery slope for us too. If we need your advice all the time are we really mature, functioning adults? Try to keep that in mind when you talk to us.

So, mothers, my advice for you is to weigh your words carefully. Try to dispense your life lessons in a way that doesn’t make a person feel like if they don’t take your advice you’re judging them harshly (which you probably are but you can pretend you’re not). Watch your timing and delivery, and try not to get too upset about putting us in therapy (if we have health insurance it’s not that big of a deal). You’re a parent so it’s your job to guide us.

By the way, Mom, tell Tamra she’s not 21. She might need some advice about embracing her age.

Mom writes: Well, first, I did screw up remembering Tamra’s age correctly. And secondly, I’m pretty sure it’s that kind of advice that might elicit a less-than-grateful response from Tam.

Ned writes:

I usually like to weigh in after everyone has given their opinion and although Shira has not yet responded, it seems that you all have a pretty good bead on the over-functioning parent. All three of you tell us a lot of stuff, so deep down you probably want our opinions. Your mom and I often say that none of you initially takes our advice, because you need a little time to think about what we suggest. I can’t say that you always do what we say, but I respect most of your decisions. When I stick my two cents in (I actually think my advice is worth at least double that), I try to make a point of not really getting too emotionally involved in your responses because it’s not going to be pretty and I want to avoid an argument. I try to get in and out of there quickly. But your posts show how wise you have become, probably from listening to our good advice. So maybe I should start asking for your advice. Maybe not. And really, I think I have hleped you enough.

Tamra writes: Your mom.

Ned writes: Tamra, don’t get me started.



  1. I think at times as mothers We beat ourselves just a little to much …We cant enjoy our children for worrying about our ability as mothers ..Eliza Keating

  2. You are so right. We mothers are hard on ourselves. And, yes, there are some days when the worry gets in the way of the enjoyment. Fortunately, many days the fun shines through or no one would ever have more than one child! I think it’s okay to reflect on our parenting skills and to adjust what needs to change but we do have to draw a line between worry, reflection and obsession! Mothering is tough and as anyone can see from my post and I’m a mother of grown kids, it doesn’t necessarily get easier as they get older. But, it’s worth it… I think…
    Thanks for letting us know what you’re thinking.

  3. I am almost 60, my daughter 26. son 33. She despises(hates) me talking to her girlfriends when the are over. Its her #1 pet peeve, why she says I go on and only. I am annoying, run my mouth, tell her business( she lives at home with me) and rairely nice unless she wants something. Will we ever bond, will she be affectionate again ever, like she is to KING dad, and lives with me. Somewtimes I suceed at going in one ear and out the other. Lots of times its hurtful She even defriended me on facebook, not dad.
    The annoying mom

    • It’s likely she defriended you because she knew it would bug you. I suspect she secretly wants your approval and feels really attached to you and maybe is even a little bit afraid that she will never be able to be independent of you. I suspect she’s pushing you away because she may be protecting herself from being way too attached. I’d try to give her the space she needs to feel a bit independent despite living with you and try to allow her to spread her wings as much as possible so that she really knows that she can. If she says you’re talking to her friends too much, it’s probably because she resents having to live at home at this late stage in her life and has nothing to do with you. I bet this will all ease up when (and if, given today’s economy) she moves out. You ask if she will be affectionate again, meaning that she once was and, yes, the answer is, she will likely return to the days when she is a loving daughter who finds you the same loving mom you’ve always been. Meanwhile, good luck!

  4. When my sons reached their middle teens, a light bulb went off (ok, it wasn’t that spontaneous; I think it was in the middle of someone’s meltdown, maybe mine) and I realized that the time for helping form my children, teaching them right from wrong, teaching them to be good people and make good decisions was over. I’d used every teachable moment, EVERY teachable moment and if they hadn’t learned the things I wanted to teach them yet, my re-teaching wasn’t going to help.
    I decided my job then became cheerleader, to always be in their corner, supporting their explorations and showing how proud of was of them as I watched them figure things out for themselves. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that but I have been know to backslide. I try to offer my thoughts and guidance and then back away quickly so as not to get caught by the backlash. Everyone in my family needs time to consider ideas and advice, especially coming in an unsolicited way, but if left alone, I think we’re better able to process it and maybe make it feel like our own ideas, which we always like better anyway.
    Well, I didn’t realize I had so much to say on that matter. Thanks for the hot topic.

    • Sounds like you have it together. Hope your sons appreciate it!

  5. Oh, I love the family banter! What a great post. Yes, it is a hard balance to strike as a mother. I have watched my own grandmother and mom struggle with this with their troublesome sons. Of course, I have been perfect and they have not struggled with me. Ha, ha, ha! 🙂

    • I love that you are perfect! We need to hear from you more often!

  6. I love your layout for your posts–it’s really fun to see everyone share their advice on the topic and the banter is great. =)

    It’s interesting to read about this, because my mom definitely stayed towards the not overbearing side, but I can totally see myself being quite the involved and potentially overbearing mom someday. Thanks for giving me lots to think about!

    • It’s so hard to avoid the over-function compulsion but good luck!

  7. Hi this is a great site and I’m glad you let me know about it via She Writes. I do have this to say I am currently in my vintage years (over 50) and our youngest and only daughter just recently had her first child. While she and her husband are very involved parents I being a new grandmother was there as always doing and protecting and instructing. My daughter pushed hard for her autonomy and seeing that we have always been very close (youngest and only daughter with three older brothers and a dad) she was also spoiled but not a brat. However because it was her turn to be the mother she pushed in a way that was almost a slap in my face. Then suddenly the light was cut on and I realized that it was my turn to live my life. My job of meaning the hands on mother was over…I would always be there for support and advice when asked but now I could love and spoil my grandchild and leave. That my job as mother was to give each child the pieces to life’s puzzle and make sure they had them…it is there job to take those pieces and put the puzzle together. If they don’t have the pieces then its my fault however if they have them and put the puzzle together wrong then its their fault and they have to keep trying until they get things right. We as mothers want to keep showing them how and where the puzzle pieces should be but if we keep doing this they never learn and can never grow…and what I always say is what does not grow dies. Now that I’ve let go I’m so happy and have found most of my pure self and still seeking to fine the rest. As for my children they are doing great…RevLa…aka Rev. LaWaughn Rouse….stop pass and see our website for emptynesters and vintage ladies at

    • I’m on my way to your site right after I write this. I love the phrase “vintage ladies.” You have great wisdom to share, too. The idea of things dying that don’t grow is so true. And, the fact that you were able to learn that is wonderful. Your daughter and granddaughter are so lucky to have you to light their way.

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