Mother’s Day just past. It’s that day that is bitter sweet to me each year before I had kids and now, even now, that I am the Mom. I think I have mostly developed a thick skin through the years against the happy, sweet things people write about their mothers and how amazing and grateful they are that their mothers have always been there for them pushing them to succeed to become the people they are today. The grainy photos of their happy childhood memories and an iPhone picture showcasing not only what a lovely mother they still have but what a beautiful and kind grandmother she is too. I am not bitter I promise. I hope one day for my daughter and son to be so proud of me and that they have kind things to say on Mother’s Day. I long for that in fact because I know, finally now after many years of figuring I was just like her, that I am not. Here’s the thing about motherhood for me. It brought on a crushing intensity that I would be a gigantic failure at being a mother because I assumed the worst assumption of all – that I would be just like my Mother.Let me back track here because one of the last communications I had with my sister, who is very much like my Mom, she pointed out that my childhood was not so bad (she who railed every time I saw her about how rotten her childhood was…) How I had the best of everything, how I was not physically abused or underfed or harmed. All of which is true to some degree. I was fed and mostly cared for but the thing about having my Mother is that I never knew what to expect moment to moment sometimes. That my friends is called emotional abuse.
And that was constant and tragic and painful and hurtful and I grew up alternately cowering and hiding myself away or steeling myself against what would come next. I could never see that or say that to anyone. It would hurt my heart to feel so badly about Mom. I wanted to love her the way others seemed to love their mothers but when I tried I felt crushed under the weight of it all. Mom was the hardest because I was under her care the longest. She made people believe that she was something that she was not. She was more than fake it till you make it, she was just fake it. Mainly in private, though I have seen her personal brand of crazy in public too, she threw things and sobbed and screamed and patted my hand afterward any of those things and she would me I was a good girl, her very best bestie, who should never leave her because she needed me to be her bestie and care for her when she gets old, that’s what kids do and her other rotten kids would never do that but I would! If I ever dared tried to date or have close friends she instantly found something wrong with those people. If I asked about something that happened – for instance, the last time Oma visited CA and you screamed so loudly at her and ran away from the house, remember that? – she would tell me I was crazy, that never happened, I remembered it all wrong and on and on the stories go just like that – I was crazy, she was not. She pitted me against my siblings and father and aunts and uncles and cousins and I grew up cowering in a proverbial corner unaware that life did not need to be like that.
It amazes me sometimes that she left me leave California for Michigan. Hell, that she left me leave San Jose for Hayward. Of course by that time I was too old with a serious chip on my shoulder to entirely control so she did “her thing” differently, more subtly and it was like breathing – it would grow and deflate depending on what was happening in her life. I would pray for her to fixate on others to give me relief and freedom to be me for a bit. And on and on this went until recently.Till I found myself cowering in a corner screaming my head off at HER about what a horrific person she is in my own house several thousand miles from her… then it dawned on me. This is my life, my world, my home – no one can take any of that away from me but me. In that moment of clarity I realized she has no more power over me. I am a grownup who makes big girl decisions and takes care of my own children and house and husband and life. It was then that I realized that she was not ever going to change or be the person I hoped she would be when I was ten nor would she be the person I wanted her to be at 41. I could go to the end of my life and hers and she would not change. But I could.
So while I dread Mother’s Day and all of that sentiment, I let go of the vision of perfection that those around me give to the world one day per year and enjoy each moment I have with my kids as best I can. I do fail and I do yell and I do show my ‘ugly’ side but mostly I am the best Mom I can be and I am my own person. I am not her because I am not. Every day I strive to be a better, kind, more humble, helpful, loving person in spite of the experiences I had growing up. And yes dear sister my childhood was not so bad but it was not so great either. I lived in my own hell but now I know I not only survived it, I thrived in spite of it. I am glad I ignored all of those voices in my head that said ‘do not become a mother because you will be just like your own mother”. I am glad I have had the opportunity to be called mother by the most amazing children so for that I celebrate being called Mom (Momma, Mommy and yes sometimes even Mother ;) every single day of the year.