My mom and I have had an interesting relationship over the years.
As her first child and her only daughter, she had big hopes for me. She was looking forward to having a little princess dressed in pink wanting to do girly things. Instead she ended up with a daughter who would rather be outside playing football and baseball with the boys. Who was more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt than in a dress. Who shunned clothes shopping and couldn’t put together a matching outfit if her life depended on it. (I still shun it – I continually ask Garbanzo if things match.) I was not the daughter she had hoped for.
These differences created issues as I grew older. She felt outnumbered by the boys, and instead of having someone on her side, she had a traitor on the boys’ side. I knew this was how she felt because she used it to guilt me. (My mom was raised a good Catholic – she knew how to wield guilt. And wield it she did.)
When I hit puberty, all hell broke loose. I pretty openly rejected her. To be blunt, I saw her as weak. She tiptoed around issues instead of calling them out. She never spoke her mind. I never saw her stand up for herself with anyone including my brothers. She was my opposite, and it drove me nuts. And, I drove her nuts in return.
To give you an idea of the kind of relationship she and I had. My friend of 25 years likes to remind me of this story quite often because I was on the phone with him at the time. I was talking to him when my mom came up wanting to talk to me. I stopped what I was saying and told her that it was rude to interrupt someone while they were on the phone. She immediately apologized and turned to walk away. She got two steps when it dawned on her what I had done. She turned and yelled, “Wait a minute! I’m your mother. I get to interrupt you on the phone. Now get off of it. NOW!” I was a master of turning the tables on her. I was 16.
Now because I have just painted myself as a horribly rebellious child, I figure I should give you an idea of who I was as a teenager. I was a straight A student. I worked 20-25 hours a week during the school year. I played sports and was on the debate team. I was a National Merit Scholar. I was fixated on college – and that kept me from doing anything that could have detracted me from that goal. I was mouthy, but that was pretty much it. I was not a burden on them. I took care of things myself. They got true rebellion with my brothers.
In retrospect, we did have common ground. We were always swapping books. She and I read in the same manner – we devour whatever we can get our hands on. So I would hand her everything I read, and she would give her pile to me. We liked weird movies. Both are chocoholics and made sure there was something chocolate in the house.
After I moved to Oregon, things finally got resolved. My mom had sent me a birthday gift that was a memory book about her and us. In the book, she told me things I never knew she felt. She told me she was happy I spoke my mind. That I could stand up for myself. That I knew exactly what I wanted in life and went after it not letting anything get in my way. All of the traits the frustrated the hell out of her growing up, she was thankful I had them. In fact, she told me she wished she had some of those same traits herself.
Hearing that from her was a turning point for us. She acknowledged me as the person I was versus the person she had wished I was. We started having adult conversations after that. She stopped treating me like a kid, and I stopped treating her like I did as a teenager.
And now, I find myself being protective of her. I am the one chastising my brothers for how they treat her. They still talk down to her or try to do it. I am the first to point out to them how she helps them. Oh, we still tease her. She is the odd-ball personality in our family, but she’s learned to give it back to us. She’s learned we do it out of love and not because we don’t respect her. In fact, she can now dish it out. Probably the funniest things we get her to do (and only would this be funny in my family) is to use the word “fuck”. My mom now knows it isn’t us versus them – just us.
So, Happy Mother’s Day! I love you, Mom! While I am sorry it took us so long to figure out our relationship, I am glad we finally did. And, yes, I know that one of my daughters will put me through the same hell I put you through. I am just happy to have you close by and willing to give advise if I need it.
(and yes, I have told her all of this….I am acutely ware that life is too short. )