How time does fly when you’re having fun (and even when you’re NOT). Seems that only yesterday we were ringing in the New Year, and suddenly it’s almost into mid-May and it’s time for the annual ritual of paying tribute to the women who brought us into the world, fed us, raised us, and put up with our crap.
I’ve always had mixed emotions about this holiday. When I was young, it felt phony to pretend that my mother was the world’s greatest, because she most certainly wasn’t. I loved her, almost as much as I feared her, but she made my life hell with her constant criticism and mercurial moods. I never knew which mother I’d come home to each afternoon when I got out of school—the laid-back, fun one who took me to the movies and the beach, or the mean one who berated me for any reason or no reason and made me feel as though I couldn’t do anything right.
I was never thin enough (even when I was a slim size 7 and 120 lbs. dripping wet). I was too loud and boisterous. I wasn’t ladylike enough. I was too negative. I was impulsive. I had a hot temper. I wanted too much independence. I didn’t like the same kind of clothes she liked. I “whined” too much. I didn’t get high enough grades. I was too “out there” (when she wasn’t criticizing me for being too reserved). I was stubborn. I spent too much time reading and not enough time making myself pretty. I was a tomboy. Later on in young adulthood, I drank too much and spent too much money. And I didn’t marry a rich man she could be proud of.
I know now that Mother was more than likely bipolar too, and that she was hypercritical because she didn’t know any other way to raise a daughter. My sister got pretty much the same treatment, although she was much more malleable than I and learned well the art of being a lady, which I never could quite master. Mother knew I was smarter than she was, and that threatened her. So she put her efforts into squashing my natural ebullience and trying to change my personality. The fact that she didn’t succeed entirely speaks of the strength I never gave myself credit for until recent years.
She’s been gone now for almost a quarter of a century, but her legacy lived on through my own child-rearing years. The fact that my grown children and I are on speaking terms says volumes about their strength of character and the unconditional nature of their love for me, because I wasn’t much better at parenting than she was. I was terribly inconsistent, overreacting to their minor issues at some times while letting more serious ones go. They too never knew which mother they were dealing with from week to week—the silly one who threw snowballs at them, the nasty one who ripped their heads off for minor violations of the house rules, or the crazy one who threw screaming fits on the front lawn.
The one thing I did right was to show them I loved them, which I did (and always will) with the fierceness of a lioness protecting her cubs. They don’t have to live perfect lives, in fact, I’m amazingly accepting of the choices they’ve made. I don’t always agree with those choices, but it doesn’t matter…..I want them in my life, and I DON’T want them to have to spend half of theirs on a psychiatrist’s couch trying to get me out of their systems.
So to all mothers, new and used, I say this: Love your children unconditionally and make yourself worthy of their respect—don’t demand it, and never assume it’s yours by default. You have to earn it, just like you do anything of lasting value.
Happy Mother’s Day. 🙂