In fits of exasperation during my volatile teenage years, my mother would exclaim, “I hope you have a daughter just like you!” Thankfully, I did. And during my daughter’s spirited times, somehow my mother’s words came out of my mouth. And yes, she also has an ebullient child. We have several years before my granddaughter is a teenager, but I predict the same conversation will occur.
Another accusation my beleaguered mother used to say was that I was only happy doing what I wanted to do. Even as a defiant little girl, I would retort, “What’s wrong with that?” Sorry, Mom.
I can’t write a warm and glowing tribute to my mother because we have never been close. There weren’t any shared secrets or long calls or exchanges of advice. Once a man hit me and split my lip, but I couldn’t tell my mother even though she was only 30 minutes away. I fled to the home of a friend’s mother for consolation. I wish it had been different.
My mother always has been timid and insecure, and our personalities clashed from the start. She was the Sunday School teacher, the Cub Scout Leader, and the dutiful wife and mother. But she didn’t know what to do with me, and I couldn’t be the daughter she wanted. When my parents drove me to college and found the reception area, I bolted from the car and never looked back. There weren’t any hugs or tears because all three of us were relieved that I was out of the house.
I respect my mother and know that she’s had a difficult life full of pain and sorrow. I admire her because she has a fierce determination that should be studied by medical science. And I love her as best I can. Widowed for 25 years, now she lives in a nursing home and is confined to a wheelchair. She is afflicted with dementia and I hope that when she smiles she is remembering the good and positive times she experienced during her 87 years.
The legacy of growing up in a loveless family is that there are no guidelines to follow to a better life. I knew that I wanted a close family and when I was blessed with two children, I became the Mother Bear of the Universe. I made mistakes, as we all do, but my allegiance to them remains true and unwavering. Now they have strong marriages and excellent relationships with their children, and I am in awe of their parenting skills.
The greatest parenting achievement for me is that I see and talk with my children regularly. They taught me how to do this, and I highly recommend it. I’ll continue to visit my mother and be attentive to her needs, but spending time with my adult children is like receiving a gift I always wanted. And as my mother used to say, I’m happiest when I get what I want.
With sincere admiration and love, I wish my mother, my daughter, and my daughter-in-law a splendid Mother’s Day. Remember that your children want you to be happy.