Mom’s job a labor of love
Louise Ann Simon’s 16-year-old daughter Leah gave her a little surprise last Christmas — her words in a plaque outlining “What is a mean mother?”
But the South Lake Tahoe woman continued reading to find irony in the handwritten declaration.
It says a mean mother is one who “insists on knowing where her children are at all times,” urges “they always tell the truth” and “produces teen-agers who are wiser and more sensible.”
“My mom’s my best friend,” Leah said.
The duo go camping and to church together. When Simon decided to take up a form of yoga called Pilates because of a heart condition in the family, Leah agreed to join her.
Simon, an English teacher at South Tahoe Middle School, reads out loud to her daughter.
“The themes of Hamlet and Dickens are timeless,” she said.
So is the love of mother and daughter, celebrated over Mother’s Day this weekend.
The two Simon women base their relationship on trust and caring.
“I know I can tell her anything,” Leah said.
“I think it’s real important to be there for them,” Simon said. “But maybe you get too caught up and don’t have time to show you really care.”
The mother has worked diligently to be involved, but not suffocating, in her daughter’s life.
She believes it’s important to create an inviting home environment in which her daughter can be with her friends and be herself. Movies and large bags of popcorn are the order of the day.
“We’ll go out and there will be nothing to do, so we’ll always come back here,” Leah said.
If the teen is out where there are influences like drugs or alcohol, she recalls her mother’s request to call her to be picked up before making bad decisions, and she won’t pass judgment.
A recently released study out of London claims a caring mother is the single most important factor in preventing teen-agers from abusing drugs and alcohol.
“I’ve always told her she can call me, even if it’s 3 a.m. I’d rather lose a night’s sleep than read about her in the newspaper,” Simon said.
Leah dates but not seriously, her mother said.
“I’m not going to have sex until I’m married,” Leah said.
What’s their one point of contention?
“My room,” Leah said.
“We’ve learned to compromise,” Mom said, adding her friend told her to simply “close the door.”
Simon said she understands the pressures of being a teen these days.
“Things that were happening to us at 16 are now happening to them at 13,” Simon said.
Studies have shown that the sense of community helps in a child’s growth.
Simon, who’s lived in Tahoe for 22 years, considers the area an ideal place to raise children, and both are active in the community.
Leah plays soccer on two teams, South Tahoe High School’s and the Tahoe United Club Soccer Team.
Many modern-day mothers try to strike a delicate balance between being a pal and being a parent to their teen-agers, but marriage and family therapists say this can be a tricky relationship with special dynamics.
“When they hit puberty, there’s a pressure culturally to figure out who they are,” said Viola Nungary, a South Lake Tahoe therapist. “They learn from their moms because they identify with that same-sex parent.”
But at that time, children go through a separation process that challenges that identification and consequently the connection between the two.
“(The teen) will still remain loyal even though they argue, and they can be very critical,” Nungary said. “(The parents) have to learn to not take their kids personally.”
The teen may experience displaced aggression and take it out on the parent.
“They feel it’s safe and can lash out at their mothers. As a parent, you need to know that it isn’t about you.”
Leah recalled a time she was grounded for being sassy with her mother.
“I said, ‘then I’m going to do something bad,'” Leah said.
Simon collected herself, kissed her daughter in bed that night and asked if she would rethink that intent.
“Please honey, don’t do anything we’ll both regret,” Simon said.
It was important to her because her mother “used to say to never let the sun set on your anger.”
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