Growing up, I believed my mom was invincible. She always had the best clothes, the best hair, the best lipstick, an answer for everything, and was the prettiest mom anyone had ever had. As I grew into my teenage years however, I was convinced I had the most strict, most hands-off mom of every single one of my friends. While their moms would bring them forgotten lunches or pick them up from school if it was raining — my mom was working full time to support herself, my sister, and me. If I wanted to go to a friend’s house, I walked there and found my own way home. If I wanted to take dance lessons, I learned the bus route. If I forgot my lunch? I went hungry. If I didn’t do my homework? It was my own fault.
When I see all these reports of moms being arrested or charged with neglect for letting their kids go out into the world unattended, I think back to the way my mom raised me (she would have gone to jail FOR SURE.) But guess what? I’m fine. And you know what else? Public transit doesn’t scare me. I’m okay traveling by myself. If I don’t know how to do something I figure it out. Plop me down in the middle of nowhere with a map and I could find my way home. Even though my mom never had warm cookies waiting for me when I got home — she raised me to be self-reliant.
Now that I’m a mom with a school-aged child I realize that perhaps her end goal wasn’t to raise us to be self-reliant human beings (although I’m certain that factored into things.) I have to believe a lot of the parenting she did was simply single parent survival. She couldn’t risk her job to bring me a forgotten permission slip. She didn’t have several hours a day to drive my sister and me around to various houses, classes, and lessons. I don’t doubt that she could have run herself ragged trying to keep all of our loose ends in check as well as her own, but she didn’t. She knew her own sanity was just as important as her children’s happiness. That’s something many modern day mothers seem to have forgotten, to take care of themselves first.
I still go back and forth with a little anger, jealousy, and resentment that she wasn’t June Cleaver. But knowing myself the way I do now, I would have turned out terribly had she not thrown us from the nest with complete faith we could fly (or at least figure it out on the way down.) My relationship with my mom is not one of flowery and scripted sentiment, it is one of deep appreciation for what she did with what she was given. Just as I had no idea how to navigate being a teenager, she was never handed a manual on how to parent one. It was both our first and last time being in those roles and we crashed and burned, hard and often.
I already have moments when I know the best thing to do for my girls is shove from the proverbial nest and let them fly. It’s hard, but I know it will be worth it. My sister and I are good. I do however try to work a plate of warm cookies in here and there, but when I look back at the way my mom raised me — it’s not a bad way to raise good humans.
And that’s really all we can do as parents — take what our parents did, brush off the ugly parts and hopefully recycle them for the greater good in our own children.
Several years ago I realized my mom and I are in a place where we can be friends. I don’t rely on her for anything, while she is still young and spry enough to enjoy life on her own. Perhaps someday the roles will be reversed, and I will find myself in the caregiver role — but for now my mom can be my friend. Something we know as parents we cannot do through certain life stages (and I assure you, my mom never tried to be my friend. Protector, provider, parent? Yes. Friend? Absolutely not.) I am able to continually learn from her, and hopefully she is able to relish in her grandchildren and the knowledge that my sister and I are happy.
So mom? You are one of my longest relationships, but one of my newest friendships. The love I have for you is deep and inexplicable. Even on the days I want to scream and yell that I turned out just like you, I want to thank you for giving me something so real to model myself around as a mother. I only get one biological mom, and I’m pretty glad you’re mine.
Most of the time.
A special thanks to Hallmark for sponsoring this post. This Mother’s day how will you put your heart to paper and tell the mothers in your life how you truly feel about them? Write it down, say it all, even if it’s not all poetry and roses — because you never know when they’ll be gone.