Mom, Mama, Mother, Mommy, Ma’am
Whatever you call her, Mom, Mama, Mother, Mommy, Ma’am……. she’s the woman who brought you into the world and shaped you like no other woman could.
It’s Mother’s Day and my social media feed is full of blooms and boisterous thank you notes. I also read posts from women who wanted children but didn’t have any; women who raised children they didn’t birth and women who grieved the death of a child. Mothers and Motherhood is a complicated subject.
Speaking of complicated, my relationship with my Mom fit that definition — or at least from my perspective. We weren’t allowed to use the “F-word”, you know FEELINGS, so communication relied on the “oh so reliable” mind-reading and making assumptions. God forbid we’d talk about how we felt! It was so much more exciting and dramatic to rely on nonverbal communication and hunches.
You see, as a child all I wanted was my Mom’s undivided attention. I wanted her to love me OUT-LOUD.
My cousins remember my Mom as warm and happy. That’s wonderful and at the same time quite weird! For as long as I can remember, my Mom was never at ease. She cried A LOT – every emotion brought tears. Only with a skilled eye could you decipher if her tears were sad or mad, proud or pissed. I didn’t realize her only coping mechanism was to cry; serving as a pressure release valve for everything she had trouble processing. If I had known this I would have had far more empathy than embarrassment. In fact, we were told not to cry! Crying was weak.
I came to appreciate my Mother much more in my adulthood; especially when I become a Mother myself. While I felt increasing gratitude; there was some slow simmering resentment on the back-burner. Why didn’t she want to be more involved as a Grandma? Why didn’t she want to visit us? Why did she forget to call on my birthday? Yes, even adult women want to be called by their Mama on the day of their birth!
At some point in my forties, I knew I’d have to change my thinking if there was any chance of closing the emotional gap between us. The first order of business was forgiveness; I’d have to accept that Mom was doing the best she could with what she had at the time. It is what it is. Make peace and let that old shit go. I chose to soften my heart before another twenty years flew by.
Another thing, I would have to learn how to communicate with Mom in a way that didn’t feed my resentment but healed my hurting heart. I would speak up lovingly but firmly. It may be dangerous with only one of us speaking a new language but the danger of buried resentment is far more toxic.
Finally, I’d have to let go “the big O”; the OUTCOME. I have no control over how she will respond to me. I cannot choose her words. I seem to be a repeat student with this whole surrendering thing. You’d think I be better at it by now!
Ultimately I wanted a loving relationship more than I wanted to be right.
It wasn’t until the last ten years of our relationship that I realized I couldn’t make Georgia Kaye happy nor was it my responsibility. Permission granted. This was a game changer. The energy I spent trying to make her happy could be funneled into something else like ME; securing my own joy.
It wasn’t until the last five years of our relationship that I trusted myself enough to communicate my feelings; letting go of the need for any outcome except for feeling seen and heard. I knew she might not understand my response nor agree but I would express myself. For example, “It hurts my feelings when you are critical of my appearance.” “I feel confused as to why you don’t ask me about the boys?” “Are you proud of me?”
It wasn’t until the last few years of our relationship that I saw Mom as a delicate bird; preferring the safety of her cage over the expanse of the world . She was heavy with scar tissue and tears wet her feathers. In a strangely inverse way, I was growing stronger while she grew weaker. Sometimes I was both parent and child. Sometimes we were both children.
It wasn’t until her death that I realized she had lived far longer than anyone predicted despite her enormous health issues. She wasn’t ready to leave her kids so she paid the price. Not only did she suffer from chronic pain, I think she was really lonely, attempting to hide it by questioning me about my life and travels.
It wasn’t until the first anniversary of her death that I realized how much I still need my Mother. On every holiday, birthday, crappy day or moment of celebration, I still want to reach out to her. And because she chose to live in her cage didn’t make her wrong or less than. Different is not bad.
Our relationship suffered for twenty years because I was stubborn. Don’t be like me. Clear the air. Forgive often. Find similarity rather than difference. Love. Love even more.
I miss you, Mom.
From the heart,