Whenever this day comes around, I am naturally forced to examine not only my relationship with my mother, but the one that I have fostered with my own child. I am confronted with cards and commercials that shout words that often seem so very alien and that do not reflect my experience with my mother. Sentiments that I absolutely pray embody the reality my child has for me.
Let’s address this: as far back as I can remember I have had a very strained relationship with my mother – the type that no young child should have with a parent – but especially not a daughter with her mother. We have all heard the psychologists spouting the “a daughter learns how to be a woman from her mother” business; that very true business that says that for a daughter, her mother’s treatment of her goes an extremely long way in leaving the imprint of her eventual sense of self – whether good or bad.
I have three sisters; I am number three in the line-up of four. I am also the one that best resembles my father – both physically and emotionally. So, from the perspective of a woman that has now lived many of life’s experiences and that is being very well educated in the workings of human behaviors, I understand that my mother’s treatment of me had less to do with me and more to do with the reminder I posed as a mini-reflection of a man that she eventually simply grew to tolerate at best. So from a clinical point of view, I understand it. From an emotional view however, her rejection of me, her child, has hurt and confused as hell!
Here’s what I will grant – the strength, ambition, focus and will my sisters and I possess come straight from our mother – we can kick-ass like no one’s business. Our mother made immense sacrifices that now looking back, I can recognize as the foundation she provided to guarantee the possibility of our successes. For that, I thank her. But, as is the risk of all our legacies, my mother also laid the foundation that allowed for some less-than-positive realities in my life (I will not speak for my sisters… at least not here).
When a child is denied the (obvious, demonstrative) love that they are entitled to from their parent at the formative period of their life, it sets them on a course that, on the lower end, can confuse; on the higher, destroy. I child’s sense of security originates at home; it is the first place they should be shown their worth and importance to the world. By a parent’s actions, a child learns what it means to be cherished, considered important, deemed worthy and loved through insecurities. A parent’s opinion of their child weighs heavily on that child’s opinion of them self.
So often, as human beings we interweave into our parent-child relationships, our feelings about and love or dislike for the other parent in the equation. We infuse into our children’s day or lives the results of the treatment we receive from their other parent. We often love or dislike them by proxy. Sadly, too many children are held responsible for their parents’ (obvious or eventual) bad choice in partnership.
My relationship with my mother has never been what I had hoped. It has never been what I deserved. What I have (hopefully successfully) done with that reality, is to make it pave the way as the opposite direction I have taken in mothering my own child. I (hopefully successfully) have taken all the tears of rejection and disappointment I have cried and transformed them into breadcrumbs that point me in the direction of an all-around better emotionally-available and empowering mother. (Hopefully successfully) I have been able to love my child way past my own scars.
Today we celebrate mothers. As such, I thank my mother for the sacrifices she did make on my behalf. I thank her for the strength she exhibited in the face of some very-less-than-ideal set of realities. I honor her commitment to our education, health and security. I forgive her for what she was unable or unwilling to offer me and release the last vestiges of my disappointment in her.
Today as we celebrate mothers, I ask God to make me into the mother that I often prayed I had. I ask Him to place in my heart all that I should have had. I beg Him for the wisdom, patience, strength and vulnerability to continue loving my daughter the way she deserves – allowing no one, no fear and nothing to stand in between my ability and her birthright.
So, my reality does not reflect the sentiments I see in cards and quotes – my mother is not my best friend, she is not the first person I pick up the phone to call either when I am happy or in pain (she is actually not on the list at all), I did not learn a positive reflection of self-worth or love from her. But, in spite of all that, I do thank her for turning her emotional back on me – for that truth has forced me into being the woman that faces the world, my daughter and you all – head-on, brave, willing and available.
Happy Mother’s Day to you.