I have a complicated relationship with my mom, and Mother’s Day is always strange for me because of it. My mom’s not my best friend and never has been. All those platitudes like, ‘I don’t know where I’d be without my mom and everything she did for me,’ just don’t ring true for me. Now, I’ll make it clear, I’ve never been hit or hungry. I made it to school on time every day, and our family even took vacations (to places my parents wanted to go). My parents are still married to each other and they never separated (though I’m not sure that’s preferential to divorce…they fought, and still fight, often, over ridiculous minutiae). My point here is, I know my parents did the best they could, and at least in my mom’s case, she did exponentially better than her parents did. I’m not a complete ingrate. She gave me life and I had all the ‘stuff’ I ever needed to grow up into at least a semi-functional person. And I know there are millions of kids who had it way worse than me growing up. But my mom undermined me (and still does) constantly, making me question every decision I ever made from simple things like which shirt to wear, to big, important things like should I buy or lease? And she’s never given me real emotional (and sometimes not even practical) guidance or support.
She used to chastise me for calling her at work with questions or seeking comfort (this was in middle and high school when I became a latchkey kid…I never asked for support when I was little, because I got it from my grandparents without having to ask for it). She’d even get upset about me calling after normal business hours were over, when I was home alone, caring for myself and my brother, who is over a decade younger than me (he was a preschooler when I was in high school; elementary school when I was in college, and my dad always worked nights). My mom never checked my homework or offered me help with something I didn’t understand, whether that was 8th grade algebra or how to make friends at a new school. I had to figure it out on my own. I know that’s a common complaint about ‘what’s wrong with kids today,’ that none of them can figure anything out on their own. But I have to say, my experience as a kid that DID have to do that…it’s not all that great. Some understanding advice and the occasional hug would’ve been nice, and even growing up without ‘coddling,’ I turned out pretty damn ‘soft.’
When I was a new mother myself, and J and I asked for a weekend overnight to ourselves with my parents babysitting, (The Boy was potty trained, and sleeping through the night, so…feed him dinner and be present while he slept; feed him breakfast in the morning, which we provided), her response was, ‘I’m not doing *this shit* every weekend.’ She didn’t think we (certainly not *I*) needed a ‘night off’ because I didn’t work. We still schedule our dates once a month (or more scarcely) now, because we don’t want to ask her to do *this shit* too often.
Mom does passive aggressive things like ask for my opinion just so she can contradict it (Which road should we take to this restaurant? <I answer.> No, I’m gonna take <this other way.>) Once, she asked my son in front of me if he liked that his mommy was ‘just a housewife.’ (His preschool answer was ‘yes,’ by the way.) My mom’s always literally been there for me, but she’s never ‘been there’ for me. Her social and ‘nurturing’ influence on me and my formidable insecurity make me constantly question what kind of mom I am to my son.
The other half of Mother’s Day at our house is nearly the total opposite. J’s mother died two years before he met me (almost exactly). J was close to his mom, and he very obviously loved her, and the feeling was very obviously mutual, based on my history lessons, and just how life with J IS. Each Mother’s Day when at all possible, we go to the cemetery, and we take our son so he can hear stories about his other grandmother besides my mom. I know J’s kind and caring nature in general, and the kind of parent he is to our son was heavily influenced by his mother. She was clearly a great mom who was always ‘there’ for him, but isn’t literally ‘there’ for him (or *us*) now. I know I’m supposed to feel relieved to not ‘have to deal with a mother-in-law.’ But I honestly feel cheated out of my mother-in-law every year.
On our visit to her grave a couple years ago, our son noticed a tiny baby deer curled up against a headstone a few down from hers.
The Boy was extremely concerned with the fawn’s well-being. We told the caretakers about it on the way out, and they assured us it would be looked after properly. If they couldn’t find its mama, they’d find someone else to help it.
I’m a sensitive, introverted wannabe writer. I’m in my head all the time, and I think in metaphor and connection. So, on the drive home, I couldn’t stop thinking about how our son saw that scared little deer when everyone else had overlooked it, and wanted to make sure it was protected and comforted. And that made me think of J. I’m so grateful that J IS always there to help and support me the way I need it…when I’m scared…when I feel alone…even though my mom overlooks me most of the time and has always been pretty absent and dismissive. And it made me very proud. I must be doing alright as a mom myself…I must be a good mom like J’s mom was…because my boy is so good and kind and caring. He’s just like J. That’s the best Mother’s Day gift I could’ve gotten.