Sunday, May 8, 2011
Do You Need to be a Mother to Appreciate Your Mother . .. . or Does it Take More? - - - - - Happy Mother’s Day to “The Best Mother I Ever Had!!”
I blogged before that my mom and I were close when I was a kid but a gulf grew during my teen years. In my early adulthood, I also put physical distance into the mix. I moved to another state to go to college. When when I didn’t know “what I wanted to be when I grew up,” I dropped out and left the country. I checked in occasionally but my primary motivation was to visit my little sister. My mother and I were cordial. But there was a brittleness.
When I had my first son, I gained a different, eye opening view. Before, I had a sense my mom should know most everything and somehow be immune from youthful insecurities. However, I did not feel at all competent when I became a mom. I was more than a little terrified to leave the hospital. It seemed ludicrous I couldn’t drive a car without getting a license. But I could be handed my innocent, helpless child and allowed walk out without showing any evidence I was up to the task of raising him.
After my son’s birth, my mom wanted to come and help. I was unsure; I didn’t want our complicated relationship to color the pure, simple love I was experiencing. I didn’t know if I had the energy to navigate that complexity as I adjusted to my new role. I asked my elder sister to come first and my mother later. As I watched her soak up her new grandson, a window opened to a different relationship – mother to mother. Her validation of me as a mother was a defining moment.
I had a dear friend then who was my mother’s age. I talked to her about the distance that persisted even though we could connect about my son. She explained how she felt about her four daughters and gave me the “mom of grown-ups” view which helped me to see things from my mom’s vantage point. Over the years, we became closer. There were still pieces held back but they mattered less.
When my son was seven, I received a serious diagnosis requiring surgery. My mom again wanted to help. I thought I would be fine with assistance from local friends. Many lent a hand. The friend I mentioned drove my second son to day care every day. My mom insisted on coming a couple months later. She gave me a piece of her mother's vintage jewelry. I knew this was a deep sacrifice. My grandmother shared my love of the sparkly (although ironically I am named after my other grandmother). Her pieces were a special connection for my mom since her mom passed. This gift told me more than the words she couldn’t always find. After she left, I wrote her a letter sharing how much I admired her even if we did not always agree and how touched I was she shared a piece of her memories with me.
This exchange seemed to take down the remaining walls. My mother wasn’t perfect but then neither am I. I enjoy getting to know her more deeply as a woman, a mother and a grandmother. She has wonderful stories from her days growing up with five siblings in the Netherlands. My mom recalls interesting moments about my early life that for me are buried in my subconscious. She sent my baby book at one point which let me see her as a young mother with the same joys and insecurities I had.
My kids adore their Oma (Dutch word for grandmother). And they remain the primary topic of our conversations. My mom recently asked if I could bring Leyla, our youngest, for a visit. My boys spent lots of time with my parents. My mom admitted she was concerned Leyla hadn’t gotten that chance. And as my mom gets older, I see her not taking time for granted. I found a weekend where the two of us could travel. My daughter is shown here giving my mom one of her special “Leyla hugs” – which make you feel like the most loved person in the world. Looking at that closeness, I hope I can use the lessons of our mother - daughter relationship as my daughter and I go through the normal ups and downs in our relationship.
Happy Mother’s Day to my wonderful mother . . .and thanks to my three awesome kids (and amazing husband) who make me feel cherished even if it is expressed as my son Damian once said “You are the best mom I ever had”.