Mother’s day. The ads byting my inbox were the only reason I was aware of its encroachment. I may not remember it, but my family doesn’t forget (I’m flattered beyond words to know that my family thinks I’m worth remembering.) Yet it’s not the calls on my birthday, the love I feel at Christnukkah, or the ecards I receive on Mother’s Day that say, “I love you, mom.” It’s the little day to day things, and the big things my children do each and every day because of the man and woman they’ve become that makes every day mother’s day for me.
I’ll be at my son’s house next week. The Munchkin is in a dance recital and she wanted her grandmother there. My son is driving 7 hours to pick me up and the next day we drive 7 hours back to his home. That, in itself, is enough effort to show a mother she’s loved for a lifetime. And how many men would do that for their daughter? But then, a week later, he’s going to take me home! Just thinking about driving 28 hours in one week makes me want to hide under the covers. A trucker may look at this and say, “So what?” Well, mother trucker, my son is an associate professor at a university. He’s doing this out of love. What better gift can a son give to a mother—or his daughter—than a selfless act of love?
My daughter works well over 40 hours a week—and she has a family. It’s not just any family, but a family that my daughter chose to love. The 2 children have endured a mother who loves drugs more than family, one who thinks nothing of manipulating their love for her in order to take from them what she needs to survive and use drugs another day. My daughter is showing this family what it means to be loved and valued, not used and thrown away when they are no longer needed. What better gift can a daughter give her family than a selfless act of love? Does she know how much it means to me day to day to know that she is giving to others the love I feel for her? She does now.
My daughter called a few days ago to say hello. Her smile over the phone is better than a ride on the highest roller coaster. She’s one of the followers of my blog and I want her to know how much I appreciate her support of my writing habit. It’s the best present anyone could give me for any holiday for the rest of my life! If my son is following my blog entries and I don’t know it, I appreciate his support of my writing habit as deeply.
One of the reasons I encourage my family to read my blogs is to see the person behind the “momness.” Writing gets to the heart, the humanness, cyber space sees equally. There are no visual, auditory, olfactory constraints in the way. That, I believe, is one of the greatest gifts a mother can give to her children: The glimpse of the person behind the facade called “mom.”
The generations of mothering techniques before me required punishing large and small infractions the same while ignoring achievement. If you want to raise a child with no concept of her self-worth, who spends her life afraid of making a mistake and believes that the wrong date on a page is as bad as robbing a bank, my mother’s techniques can’t be beat. Changing parenting styles required the love of my sister, who gave me a book about parent effectiveness that changed my life. Consequently, my parents believed I was raising hellions who were going to be in jail by the time they were 18, not like the kids next door to us. BTW: The kids next door both did jail time. My kids went on to college. My BAID (My, but alas I digress).
My mother was consistently there for her 2 daughters in physical ways. She sewed my chorus uniforms from a pattern. She was at every after-school event my sister and I were part of, she chaperoned our field trips, mowed the lawn, painted the house, and provided us with a clean home. My mother was the only reason the family saved enough from the pittance our dad made to keep a roof over our heads. But trying to find the root of my mother’s emotions and to relate to her as a human being was difficult on her best day.
My mother’s diary was no help, providing my sister and I with a few unsatisfying (chicken) nuggets of her life, “Had oatmeal for breakfast. Bob had a cheese sandwich for lunch. We planted turnips today.” That’s a real crowd stopper. I’m feeling very sorry for the cheese sandwich–how about you? She once told my sister that she learned to mask her emotions early in life. If she hadn’t, it would be a weakness that family would use against her. Only in her last days, when the thin veneer of civility dropped like a tank in a mud bog, did she show the deeper heart. “You two girls were the only ones who didn’t take advantage of us,” she said over and over again. Underneath it all, she was caring, loving, hurt, and lost, choosing as a mate a protector who was incapable of hiding his emotions. Life’s lessons taught her that an impenetrable wall was the best defense against emotional invasion.
I was fortunate to find my passion, a tool through which I am able to provide my children with an understanding of their mom as a human being. If I can accomplish that, I feel my life has been successful. My mother found her expression through painting buildings and houses, giving one as a wedding present to a young woman who cried when she received such a unique gift. She painted our childhood home, complete with the nasty little dog that trolled the front yard looking for people to bite, the periwinkles gracing the perimeter of the house, and the white car that replaced the 1957 2-tone green Chevy station wagon I had loved as a child.
Mom painted a scene of my dad and I going fishing for crabs in the Savannahs. What did I remember from that moment in life? Crabbing was a good way to describe it. My dad would say things like, “Don’t touch anything” or “Sit still so the crabs go into the trap.” My mother believed she was capturing the essence of the father-daughter experience, part of an emotional journey a teenage girl takes on the way to adulthood. I remember the way the crabs screamed as they were dumped into the boiling water.
What do I remember now, looking at the pictures of my childhood home and the scenes that sang to my mother’s heart? I remember her as a person with deep emotions she was unable to express. I remember her as a woman gifted in the art of budgeting or, as my father often phrased it, “That woman could squeeze the buffalo on the nickel until it sh..uh, screamed.” I remember her as a strong spirit crippled by the dishonesty of the con artists, quacks and users continually beating her down. In fact—I’m beginning to feel very, very sorry for that cheese sandwich.
Would I want to live with her again? Hell no. If my mother were alive and you asked if she would want to live with her daughters again, she would probably leave out the word “hell.” Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you can live with them.
That brings me to another of the reasons I’m so very proud of my children. They’re the first to admit they love me but wouldn’t want to live with me. I believe it’s the right choice. It wasn’t always that way, as I had serious separation issues. But both of my children told me point blank that they loved me but they were going to live their lives their way. It hurt, but any mother worth the weight of her love will come to understand that it is a necessary rite of passage.
Do I worry about them? Constantly. Do I cringe when they insist on making the same mistakes I made at their age? Yes—and I marvel at my mother’s ability to keep her mouth shut about it. I certainly can’t. Are they perfect? No—but they are certainly more perfect than I.