Monday, February 07, 2011

to be a mother

this weekend was my mom's birthday.  40 years ago she was getting ready to have another baby, me, her 3rd.  she was 21.  she would have one more baby by the time she was 26.  all girls.

we went over to visit, just me and the kids.  my mom was home alone, it was the day after her birthday and she was tired from the trip out of town they had taken. everyone else had gone to my little sister's house to watch the football game.  so we sat and talked for a few hours.  the kids listening and commenting sometimes.  but mostly listening.  we talked about some of the things going on with the family.  the dysfunction of it all.  the usual.

she was telling me how she is learning mindfulness.  which led to talking about parenting and she said that when she was growing up she thought how things were in her family were normal. and when she had kids, she just did what she thought was normal, even though she did try to be less abusive than her father.  by the time she realized that abuse wasn't normal, that there were these other families that had happy, healthy relationships, she already had 3 kids and didn't really know how to change anything.  there weren't all the books and support and punitive parenting was still more prevalent than it is now.  she talked about what a family should be like and wishing that she had been able to change back then.  she told me that she and my oldest sister were talking and they felt like my family (me, scotty, the kids) were what they thought a perfect family should be.  this brought on such a rush of emotion for me.  i have always felt resentment from my family, for my choices in parenting and life in general.  they have given the impression, and even sometimes said the words, that they felt like i thought i was better than them.  i realized years later that it was their resentment, their feelings of being judged simply by my choice to do differently that put a wall between us.

we're dysfunctional.  we know how to get together and pretend like things are normal.  this is how it's always been done.  in the past few years though, i've been feeling an unraveling of that pretense.  that we are becoming more willing to talk about the past.  i think this is helping us finally heal.  she is learning to be a good parent to the grandkids they are raising/helping to raise, she is also letting my dad do more of the parenting this time around.  i admire that and i'm jealous of that at the same time. but supportive like crazy of it!!

we talked about what i've had to do for the last 15 years to become the parent i knew i could be, the work of undoing all the learned, knee-jerk behaviors and parenting.  how hard that has been.  there was a time when i didn't think i would be able to say those things to her.  i feel confident now more than ever that she understands and we aren't shushing the past anymore.

this is what it takes to be a mother.  it takes more than love. there has to be some kind of intention, some idea of what kind of mother you want to be and then get to work doing that.

for years i doubted that my mother loved us, more specifically whether she loved me or not.  i know now that if love were enough to be a good mom, she would've been a better one.  she did and does love us, very much.  i know this now.  and it is healing to no end.Share