May 06, 2013

Making the Best of It

Mom and I with my son and his children.
"You're not good enough."  "You'll never be good enough."  "You are an embarrassment."  "You're doing it wrong."  "I wish you'd never been born."  Those are the voices (those and a million like them) that echo in my head as I sit here trying to think about what my mother has taught me.

It's obvious we've never been close, Mom and I.  There are no warm fuzzy memories that I can pull up.  There are pleasant ones, but none that are glowing with maternal love.  There were perfunctory kisses good night until I turned 12 or so, but I don't have one single memory of being cuddled, petted or doted upon.  You know, those moments when as a mom you look at your child and are so overwhelmed with love for them that you just have to touch them and tell them you love them.

In Mom's defense, I don't think she got that as a child, either.  The experience she and her sisters had with my grandmother seems to be much different than the one I had.  Nana positively showered me with all the cuddles and love I could stand.  There was also something much larger in play....

Mom was in college in 1963.  A small state liberal arts school in a small, rural, conservative, all-white town, which was the same kind of town Mom came from.  She did what was unacceptable for that time and place. She got pregnant.  Marrying my father was apparently not an option because at the age of 48, I still don't know anything about him, not even his name.  Mom has never said anything about him and I've never asked even though I'd like to know.  Why?   I don't ask because I've assumed his absence means he rejected me before I was born.  Mom planned to give me up for adoption, but her parents kept her at home and by that I mean she wasn't allowed out of the house except to go to medical appointments.  It was too shameful a thing to flaunt in public.  Once I was born, my grandparents took care of me so my mom could finish school.  I lived with them until I was 3, when my mom married and my dad adopted me.

All that explains why Mom and I have never had a close mother-daughter bond, but while I understand it, it still stinks.  I don't want the story to end here with me sounding like a whiny child.  I want to find good things she taught me.  I won't lie, it took a lot of thinking and some of it creative, but I did come up with some positives.

  • Mom was a librarian.  From her I got my love of books and reading.  I read adult novels by the time I was 11.  The one thing you can find in literally every room in my house is books.
  • Without all that motherly doting, I was left to my own devices a lot of the time.  I don't mean I was allowed to run wild.  There were rules and my basic needs were met, but we didn't really do anything together.  I learned to do a lot for myself and how to keep myself occupied and amused.  So, I say she taught me independence.  
  • She taught me responsibility.  I will do my best to always do the "right" thing even if it's the last thing I want to do....a concept that seems to be beyond most people these days.
  • Maybe the most important thing Mom taught me was the kind of mother I didn't want to be.  I tried to do the opposite of what she would have done when I raised my kids.  How's that working out?  The jury is still out.  During the growing up years, I was close to my kids and had great relationships with them.  These days I'm the one who lives nextdoor to my mother, would never abandon her, and keep my mouth shut even when I dislike what she is saying.  My children, on the other hand, either live away and have their own families (and think nothing of cutting me out of their lives for every little thing they disagree with or assume they know about me) or are planning to move far away as soon as they can.
So, there it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I could dwell on the bad stuff and I'd be lying if I said it never bothers me.  It does, believe me, it does.  I don't want to turn into a miserable, negative person, though, so I try to focus on the bright side.  Through good stuff and painful stuff Mom still managed to teach me about what kind of person to be and I can forgive her the bad things because now that she's older I see that she longs for the same kind of love I did, but doesn't know how.  Lately, we've been making strides in the right direction.  Thanks, Mom.  Happy Mothers' Day.

*This is a blog hop from Generation Fabulous: The Voices of Midlife


14 comments:

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fadedginger said...

Thanks for your honesty. I found this topic a difficult one to write about, too, because, although I love my mom, I don't have a lot of warm fuzzy memories of her. As I've been reading the posts today, I keep reminding myself that the important thing is that we learned the lessons, even if they weren't taught the way we would have liked.

Risa Nye said...

Those of us who lack the warm, fuzzy memories really had to struggle with this topic. I understand how tough it is to grow up with a mother who couldn't give what she never got. Luckily for me, my dad provided a better role model of how to be a loving parent. We just do the best we can, right? Thanks for speaking for daughters like us.

Stacy said...

Fadedginger...Thanks for the support. I wrestled with even writing this post, but the more I wrote the more I realized there was more good than I thought. No mom is perfect and there is no one right way to be a mom. I survived to adulthood with an acceptable amount of baggage and without shooting anything up. I say that's parenting success. lol

Stacy said...

Risa...It was hard growing up without that soft place to fall, but I think (hope) that made me and all of us in the same situation stronger.

Thanks for the kind words.

Karen D. Austin said...

Oh, mother's day and father's day can be so hard. I have trouble with father's day because of some childhood trauma. It's so hard to find an appropriate card! You did a good job putting things into perspective. You've done a great job moving forward. Hugs.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

((HUGS))Honest and sweet. Happy Mother's Day!

Donna Highfill said...

I love your honesty. I'd rather know your real story than the one that is expected, because so often real life isn't as perfect as we'd like to make it seem. Thank you for sharing your true feelings, while still showing the strengths that your mom brought to her role.

Teri said...

I am always so sad when I hear people's stories of growing up without demonstrations of love from one or both parents. Whenever my husband talks about his childhood, it makes me want to sit down and cry. What struck me in your writing was that you really have learned to truly love --in the sacrificial sense -- your mother. This is the highest form of love, loving when it doesn't make you feel good, cozy, or warm.
As to your relationship with your children, they'll probably come around eventually. When we're young, we're selfish. Sometimes all it takes is time...

Grown and Flown said...

I hear the pain in your writing and I admire your honesty in trying to explain your relationship with your mom. You are doing such a good thing to be the daughter next door and, perhaps, at this juncture, she will find a way to demonstrate her love.

Stacy said...

Karen...thank you. I hope you've found peace concerning your Dad.

Debby... Thanks. Happy Mothers' Day to you.

Teri...Thank you for the sweet words of encouragement and for hope.

Grown...Doing my duty. I am all about that.

Helene Bludman said...

You write so openly and honestly. Every relationship is complicated to some extent, and I know from personal experience that withholding information does more harm than good (my parents always felt they were protecting me by not telling me things). Would you ever consider searching for your biological father? Do you think that would provide some closure or not?

Stacy said...

Helene...I just don't know if I would or not. I'm assuming from what I do know (not much) that he probably blew my mom off and denied me or wanted nothing to do with me. At this point, he's probably 70 or more. Do I really want to show up in his life now...if he's even alive? What if he rejects me again? That would be a lot different than what he did before. What if I have half siblings who hate me for showing up? I admit I'd like to know, but maybe from afar and not intrude on anyone's life at this point?? Such a touchy thing.

Carpool Goddess said...

In those less than perfect and often painful moments are when we learn what kind of parent we are going to choose to be. It's never easy and I admire your honesty.

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