This is my story, it may not ring true for everyone, but if it can help one person understand or feel better about their blessed life they lead-then my job here is done.
Given this is the week following the celebration of Mother's Day, I find this period of the year especially troubling. I am not the first person, nor the last person, to dread this day (or father's day for the same reasons for that matter). Nor am I the first person to be shunned or walk away from a family whose ideals they did not agree, or their lives one could not rationally, nor heart filled follow. But for the last 12 years that I have been a mother, never did I fear nor crave a relationship with my mother more-even though I have always known it could never be.
I have three biological daughters, one whom was born still. I have 2 step daughters and a step son, and currently there is a family in Brazil that entrusted the care of their daughter to us, here in the US, for a foreign exchange program. So in my house I have 6 beautiful children and 1 angel watching over us all. My house is full and busy, many times a chaotic zoo, but fun. We are all so blessed, and I cannot imagine for a second what it would be like to turn my back on anyone of them at any point in their lives unless they did something insanely horrible, like murder, pedophilia, rape, etc...I may show them tough love at times, but home is a place that they should always be able to "come as you are", and leave when your wings are repaired (or I am tired of you.....which ever comes first ;) ) Now, I may not like everything they say or do, I may offer unsolicited advice, but once they cross the threshold of HS graduation they are on their own. And it is at this point I pray that what I tried to teach them, sinks in.
My mother and I have always differed in our thoughts on life and everything in it. She was insanely protective and a perfectionist on the surface (clothes, hair, shoes, etc.). I was the oldest of three. There are four things my mother used to tell me often:
- 1. (Because I look more like my aunt) Your aunt is actually your mother, but she gave you to me to raise because she couldn't.
- 2. When you were a baby, every time I tried to hold you and hold on to you tighter you wanted to get further away from me and explore.
- 3. I have dreams about you dying and I would not ever be able to handle you dying before me.
- 4. Because you are the oldest and every decision I make is new and you are a tester for your brother and sister, sometimes I feel like I should throw you out and start over.
My mother was also not very cuddly nor loving in the physical sense. Seeing her cry watching sad movies was always very shocking. She was judgemental, and often had very negative things to say about people. But I know she loved me, and still does, in the only way she can-restrictive and protective. I always tried to impress her and make her proud and do what she said, until I could not anymore. I made some large mistakes that followed-having a baby at 17, getting married at 18 to an alcoholic, divorcing at 25 and approaching my second marriage at the ripe old age of 29, to the man I should have waited for all along (that darn hindsight), and old friend, that I have known for a decade. She has not spoken to me since July-telling me that she was letting me (and her grandchildren) go and would contact me when I live the life she wanted for me. All of this, in front of her grandchildren. The most troubling things about this is she took the entire family with her-not one of them ask me for my side of what happened, and they all turned their backs on me, and secondly the way I felt after the initial shock of it all- relieved. A huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders-one I never really knew existed.
That weight release shocked me more than the separation did, even to this day when she sends me letters in the mail jabbing and berating, in the name of the Lord. And I, the studier of people new and long gone, decided to take a deep look in to relationships with partners and relationship with mothers-to see if I could prevent this emotional devastation and upheaval with my own girls.
In relationships with a partner, common things that make for a good relationship are: trust, respect, love, communication, roles of equality, gratitude/thankfulness, and "as much as I want to kill you right now I won't because I would miss you way tooo much." If you breech any of these significantly the relationship is strained and could, more than likely collapse. If you look at infidelity as an example-the cheater is not respectful of their partner, for their inability to resist temptation and cheat, AND they are unable to communicate the things they are missing that once drew them to crave and desire their current long-term/legal/etc. partner. But turning their focus to an outsider of the relationship they also are relinquishing gratitude for all they have and have built with their partner up to that point. In a maternal relationship you have the above and the following-familial patterns, expectation, dreams, loyalty, sociatal constructs, innate and genetic bonds and ethnic understanding, dictations for the minor years, patterns and need-indebtedness for survival for 18 years, and expressed and embedded responses to you-good and bad. Actions that speak way louder than words,that scar and that benefit or kill reactions once they hit adulthood. All in all- motherhood is riddled with blame and pressures like no other job one will ever have, hold, and not be paid monetarily for. Where the risks FAR outweigh the benefits and successes, and the fear of hurt (mental, emotional, or physical) is always there.
So, where then do "good moms" versus "not so good moms" in accordance of relationships, differ? Respect and communication in observable actions. My mother for the most part in front of me was stoic and inhuman, opinionated, and a martyr when she did not get her way. She snuck and hid things from my dad, she gave no respect to the only income, his, and how long he worked to bring it in. She would buy what she wanted for us and others, much to the frustrations of my father-to uphold some untouchable perfect image of gift giving and appearance. (I did a paper on this in college looking at instant gratification and self sacrifice with shopping and tangible itemsm titled, Buying Love) During a period of long term illness, that nearly took her life, she would tell us (my father and I) that we were the reason she got sick (i blamed the drugs now for this, but at the time I cannot say I did). She demanded I perform in a manor that represented her well, and berated me when I did not in the privacy of the home or car. For she, was taking her time to give me these great opportunities and I was wasting them. This continued through my parenting, my household upkeep, even while I worked a full time job and/or went to school, when my children were bathed but able to run outside in mismatched pajamas and no socks and shoes, etc. And when the flood gates of expectation and spite took over-well, There but for the grace of God go I. That God I know does not put before us things not meant for some purpose, nor even in the worst of times give us more than we can handle. And so I bear it. And try desperately not to repeat it.
What do I do given this example? It would have been easier not to replicate it if my mother was incarcerated, or dead, or a neglectful addict. But it is not the case. What occurred simply was she loved me soooooo very much she was unable to let me breathe and learn on my own and be there to catch me when I fall-for fear that I would ruin her or I-and because of this inability to teach release and communicate freely, her worst nightmares came true. I do not blame her for decisions I made-those are mine alone- but what I do blame her for is her inability to be human and communicate with me emotions and information that I believe would have helped a very curious and naive me out of skunk holes. So with my girls, I make it known-my happiness, my confusion, my sadness, my scatterbrained ness, a headache, my gratitude, my love and affection, and my arms-there forever and always. I make known for them and keep consistent my rules and expectations, the lessons learned, and when they go from bad decisions to good ones of the same nature. I have the uncomfortable talks with them. I let them tell me what they will be when they grow up. I never tell them what I expect other than at 18 you have three choices and 1 container-choose well.*
Sometimes they ask me what I think they would be good at as an adult, or what I see them as. And I tell them careers and jobs that fit their already strong suits- be it with children, animals, logistics, sports, art, etc. I sometimes tell them that I expect them to find the malformed gene or genetic coded trigger for autism and crohns, if they want to gain the super secret treasure box of candy love in the very bottom of my heart. With a smile and a hug I believe they know that I am only half serious, and it gives them a real world purpose to explore until the real world is on their door step. But-it is not forced, nor explicitly necessary to make me so very grateful they are here and healthy, and that I was blessed with their love-and I tell them everyday. I also listen-I do not tell them how they should be-I listen to their fears, hurts, disappointments, sometimes telling them to learn to deal with it as it is not worth it in the long run, and other times just holding them when they cry-trying to point out the blessings and the positives and where to go from here.
So, I am not worried. In life YOU have two options-you can dwell or focus on the positives or the negatives. You can martyr and mourn or you can pick up and move on. I am the type to look for the good in the why-with out having to know why, picking up my pcs and moving on...instead of dwelling on what could have been and poor, me, me, me...and how you are hurting me and my reputation. Kids are kids. And mom's are moms. We will always fear the worst for our kids, expect the best that is unreal in the first place, and when all is said and done-settle for what makes our baby's happy, functional, strong souls.
The difference between me and my mom; starts with a goodbye and ends with a "hey, mom-thank you." My mom never had to learn how to appreciate the little and wonderful goods-she never went in to a hospital expecting a baby only to come out days later empty handed. She never had to appreciate the reality of buring her own baby. Because of our flawed relationship and my loss, I am actually grateful, but it took years to get there. Without both of those things I could not be the strong and appreciative mother I am today. I am blessed, and I am eternally grateful-for when I get to St. Peter and I am asked how I lived and loved-there will be a jumpy baby awaiting my arms and I will be eternally blessed in fulfillment of God's greatest gift, one I was lucky enough to receive in mortal life-pure, undying, nonrestrictive love for another.
Until next time,
*When turning 18 and graduating HS, I have told my children since they were really small, their options are: military, college, or full time employment. Either way-they each have a 40 gallon Tupperware container with their names on it. I will not store or move for them, anymore than that 1 singular container in my house during their "periods of self exploration," where they live in tiny places all over God's green planet. :)
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