Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Different Kind of Mother's Day Post

I remember standing in the card section of CVS one year in college and trying to find a card that didn't comment on how supportive my mother had been or how strong our relationship was, because we had been fighting, and none of that seemed true. At last I found one that was Elvis-themed and said something like "For all you do..." on the front and "Thank you, thank you very much" on the inside. (A few weeks later, I watched her rip the card in half and throw it in the trash in the middle of an argument about something, probably my Organic Chemistry grade.) Some years, it's like that; even knowing that I love my mom and always will, I never want to send a card that does not actually reflect my feelings at that time. Other years, things are going well between us and I can pick the flower-iest, glitter-iest, most gushing card in the store. 

After some reflection, I cannot pinpoint exactly when my relationship with my mom became so difficult. High school was not the easiest time, but we really started to struggle when I went to college. Especially after I joined a sorority. There were several difficult years where my dad was caught between us in whatever thing we were arguing about at that moment, and even after college, we did not find much resolution. I think watching me grow increasingly independent was tough for my mom, particularly when I was making choices and decisions that she did not think were the best for me. 

Of course, not everything was her fault. Not being a mother myself, I can imagine but cannot fully understand the challenges and struggles of raising a child. I know I was not always easy to handle. As I thought about what I would write today, I realized that there is nobody else I have uttered (or yelled) the phrase "I hate you" at more than my mother. I don't actually hate anyone, but if I did, there are plenty of people who would merit my hatred more than my mother. I am saddened at the realization that I have used these terrible, awful words to hurt my mom more than anyone else. 

Friends have tried to offer me explanations of why my mom and I clash the way we do, but I have yet to find an explanation that I fully believe. Maybe I never will. At the root of it all, I think we are two incredibly different people trying to be ourselves but also accommodate each other. In fact, she really does not enjoy some of my favorite things, including knitting, running, and even smiling, so we sometimes struggle to connect. Moving to Louisiana expanded my horizons and increased my tolerance for spicy food, but she resists, saying "I don't like that Louisiana food." We do share a love for reading, napping, and putting on our pajamas after a long day, but those are not the best commonalities to bond over. I am starting to like red lipstick almost as much as she does; perhaps some day we can join forces in a quest to find the perfect red lipstick. Even with our differences, though, my mom and I talk several times per week and stay updated with what is going on in the other's life.

As Facebook fills up with photos of my friends with their mothers on big days like graduation or their weddings, I have neither of those types of photos. For some reason, we did not take family photos after my high school graduation, and my mom was not in attendance at my college graduation. After my wedding, family photos came to a screeching halt when my mom made a mean comment, and I started crying. There are literally no photos of us together on my wedding day.

Like I mentioned earlier, my mom is not into smiling, but I did manage to snag this photo after Christmas when I was playing with my selfie stick.
My mom, sister, and me in December 2015
Of course, not everything about my relationship with my mom is bad. Like I mentioned in my haircut post, my mom has always made sure my needs are met. As I have grown older, I realize now how great my family situation was growing up and how much my parents were able to do for me what so many mothers and fathers would like to do but simply cannot, for lack of time, money, or something else. My mother has placed the needs of others--certainly mine included--before her own more times than I can count. 

My mom was the one who answered the phone at 1 am when I called hysterical because I didn't want my dad to die. She still checks on me when she knows I am sick, and when things between us are going well, she lets me know that she is proud of me. When some jerkface boys broke my heart and I cried for days, she cared for me and even said more than once, "I wish I could take the pain for you." I have watched my mother provide gentle care to my dad and her father in their last days. She has, without complaint, done whatever was needed to make sure the people she loves were as comfortable as possible as they battled terrible sickness and faced excruciating pain.

As I grow older and Richard and I start our own family, I think I can learn from my relationship with my mom and be a better mother by duplicating many of her ways. Our mother-daughter relationship is certainly complicated, but we both seem well aware of that fact. It would not be totally honest to say that I would not change a thing. Instead, I think the best thing I can do today is let my mom know she is appreciated, pray for guidance to improve our relationship in the coming year, and be thankful that she is still here to hear that I love her. If you're feeling the same way this Mother's Day, know that it's okay and that you're not alone. 

Happy Mother's Day, everyone, no matter your mother situation!

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