Saturday, July 22, 2017

The never-ending journey

As the years go by, I have this sinking feeling that my struggle with the idea of my mother will never go away. You hear cliche stories about people being in counseling dealing with their mommy issues and you never want to admit that's you, but honestly, who would have a bigger impact?  As a mother myself, I watch these tiny creatures struggle towards adulthood. I think about how well I know them and how every action and reaction stems from something I witnessed and at this point can guess.  I have four children: two that I have given birth to, two that became mine two years ago, and all of four of them fight equally to lay next to me or on top of me when we watch movies in my bed.  My mother is always in the back of my mind.  I think about the judgment, fear, distain she always had for me. Her telling me that she loved me but she didn't like me. I remember how she always played favorites with my sisters.  I would be lying if I said that she doesn't influence how I treat my children today. I'm so sensitive to it because it hurt me so badly growing up.  There will always be a part of me that wonders how anyone can possibly want me when my own mother did not. And does not. She is still alive today, I believe.  Not that I want her back in my life.  In fact, I think that if she tried to come near me, I would do everything I could to protect my children from her so she could not do the damage to them the way she did to me.
I could tell you that I owe her some debt of gratitude for making me strong enough to make it on my own and forcing me to pay such close attention to how I treat my children, but that would be a lie. I don't feel like I need to put on a brave face about it.  I don't think anyone wants to do anything on their own. I would've liked to have had a mom to be excited when I was pregnant or come to visit and help with my newborn.  Every mothers day I can send flowers to my mother in law, but my heart feels empty that I don't have my own mother to say thank you to and I love you to.  And through my sadness, I gather my babies in my arms and I promise them to always be there for them. I swear that I will never turn my back on them and I will love them all exactly alike, no mater who they end up being.  And I will.  But the sadness and emptiness is still there. My heart hurts right now thinking about it.  I know I am not my mother. I will never play favorites with my children and I will do my best to encourage them to be themselves, irrespective of who I am or who I think they should be.  Honestly, I'm obsessive about it.  I worry constantly that I've bought one too many things or this one got more alone time with me. Maybe I listened to one's day and not another. It causes me constant anxiety. I have a tattoo on my arm of a mermaid (me) with three fish (my girls) and a seahorse (my son). I worry that my husband's two girls will feel bad that I have other tattoos for my other ones and not for them.  One day three of my littles had gotten slurpees and so I grabbed the fourth from her mom to make sure she got one too and my little 5 year old said in her most innocent voice "Momma you are taking me for a slurpee because you love all of your kids the same and you treat us the same." and I just started crying my eyes out. I try, baby girl. I try.
I think the most painful lesson my mom taught me is that love and family are voluntary.  You don't have to be part of a family with someone simply because you are blood related.  In fact, blood relation means very little. Family is about effort.  My family are the people who I go out of my way to love and take care of and the people who do their best to do that for me.  It doesn't matter how much money you have, how close you live, how often I see you, or what you can do for me.  That feeling of love in your heart for your family is something that you just know. Like how you feel when you see your little ones or you look into the eyes of the man you fight through life with.  The ones who see your house messy, watch you cry, and help you get up and dust the brownie crumbs out of your hair when life has knocked you down and you've eaten the entire pan on the kitchen floor. Again.
I love seeing people with their moms. I watch my girlfriends visit theirs, talk about how they couldn't live without them, call them best friends.  I see them get mani/pedis, go on family vacations, hold their grandchildren, and how they lean on each other. I wonder what that partnership and sisterhood feels like. I just like to be near it. I get extra excited when someone's mom is nice to me.  When my sister momma's mom made me a beautiful stained glass mermaid for my birthday, I nearly died. I naturally assume every mother on the planet doesn't want anything to do with me. Never mind the mother of the mother of two of my children.  I joke with myself that she hasn't met me yet, so she has plenty of time to decide she doesn't want anything to do with me later.  But I enjoy it while it's happening. When my husband and I went on our honeymoon, they were the only two people we really bought presents for (the mother of his children and her mom). Proof that family is who wants to make the effort to be around you and support you.
When my husband's mom came to visit last week, I walked in on him and his mom in the kitchen together. He was making spaghetti sauce and she was making banana bread, both from scratch of course because they are a matched set. The happiness and contentment of being together rose in the air and everything was bright. I watched for a moment and left, happy. One day I want that with my son. I want it with all of my kids.  To be happy just to be near someone and feel completely at ease being with someone who knows you and loves you for exactly how you are. And this comes on the heels of a rough patch between them and she had not seen her grandkids in two years...and now she has two more. Seeing her love all four of them showed me that my husband got his huge heart from his mother, which also filled my heart.
I know that I will never have a mother to make dinner with. I'll never look into her face that looks like mine and have her remember when I was just a little squish.  She won't look at her grandkids and tell stories about me when I was that age.  It still hurts me. I pray for my heart to let it go all the time. In fact, it's the big impossible thing that I am praying for this year: to have things with my mom resolved. I don't honestly know what "resolved" means. If it took me 7 years to fully heal from a 7 year relationship, then how long does it take to recover from 24 years with my mother? I'm already 13 years in and I don't feel like I've made much progress to be honest.  I know the key to happiness is realistic expectations and loving what is. But it's really hard to love my mom's role in my life, even if I expect to never see or hear from her again. We have these images in our heads about what parents are supposed to be and how we are supposed to interact with them. They don't take into account things like mental illness and the dozens of personalities that exist in the world. I know I've said over and over that I will be that mother that I always wanted, and I will do my best to be, but it hasn't helped me to deal with the emptiness left from her.
I know the answer is to count my blessings and be grateful for what I have. I know I'm supposed to not think about it, focus on what I can control, and move forward.  But just once, I'd like my mom to introduce me as her daughter with a genuine smile. To want to do some stupid mother/daughter thing with me and be excited to see me or talk to me. I want a family picture with another generation and to see my face in the generation before me and the one after me all smiling.  It seems so nice.  I've learned the hard way that not everyone can be civil or kind, love is not unconditional to everyone, that knowing each other is too great of a task for some, and at the end of the day, not everyone who is old is actually an adult.  But yeah, it must be nice.