Norman Rockwell paintings and Hallmark cards aside, Mother's Day is not always a day of familial joy. In years past, I've taken the opportunity to acknowledge the women who shaped my adult life and provided the wisdom and guidance that helped me reach this place in my life. For them, I am truly grateful, but to ignore the impact my own mother had on my life would be disingenuous and, frankly, dishonest.
I can't think of a person who plays a more important role in the life of a child than a mother. I'm going to be 48 this October and my friends are all in the 40+ demographic. We have our own homes, we have husbands or ex-husbands and/or children (many of whom are adults themselves) and we all still refer to judgments, dictates, and standards established by our mothers when we were children. Most of them are a mixed bag of compliments and resentments...none of us see our mothers as perfect and none of us underestimate the role these imperfect women played in our lives.
Our mothers can be our biggest heroes and our greatest source of pain...and, in some cases, both.
My story is a mixed bag, like most of the stories out there. My mother was the most important person in my life until I was 16. She truly was my hero. She's smart, beautiful, charming, strong, and capable. Other than the embarrassing purple bikini she wore to the beach, I thought my mother was perfect...flawless. Was my perspective healthy? In retrospect, maybe not, but who can say? By the time I was 18, our family fell apart, my mom and my adoptive dad divorced, and my mother's priorities changed (or maybe they didn't, maybe her actions were finally able to suit her priorities...I really can't say). We seemed to scatter. 24 years of ups and downs after that point saw three estrangements and two reconciliations and in the end, my mother and I haven't had any contact in almost five years.
It is a hard thing to reconcile yourself to, the reality that your own mother is someone you don't understand and don't have anything in common with, even as you acknowledge how much you've gotten from your mother. How is it possible to be raised by someone and end up so far apart that you have no common ground?
I used to feel angry, I used to feel frustrated, I used to feel hurt...but somewhere on this journey, I grew up. When I try to explain to my children why they don't have their grandmother in their lives, I accept my share of the blame...I didn't follow the path I was supposed to...you might say that I rejected my mother's lifestyle. That couldn't have been easy for her. Now, while I wish things had turned out differently, I've let go of the rest...I am so grateful for the lessons I learned at my mother's side as a young girl. I learned to be smart, strong, and capable. Through the journey of reconciling myself to the "way things are", I've learned how much I value the family that Superman and I have created.
My mother's influence has taught me that my children's lives will always be influenced by my actions. It helps me remember that my daughter thinks of me as her hero, her greatest example of what a woman is. It helps me remember that my sons are looking to me to model what a good wife and mother is. Truly...the influence my own mother has played in my life even as I quickly approach 50 reminds me of the influence I have and will have on the lives of my children.
Maybe the greatest gift my mother gave me was the way my own experiences have shaped my parenting. I don't want to do anything that will have my children think less of me. I want to be their hero...I want them to think of me as the best me I can be. I always want to be part of my children's lives, even if they choose lives completely different from mine.
I don't want them to think I'm perfect, but I do want them to know that I love each of them (and Superman, who gave them to me) more than anything else in this world.
Mother's Day ...a day to remember the child I was, the mother who raised me, and, most of all, to be grateful for the children I've been blessed with.