Mother

1960mom

Looking for a mother’s day card I came across this one and laughed out loud. I knew I couldn’t send it to my mother, but I sent a photo of it to my BFF who I knew would laugh.

This was my mother… I can hear her voice saying those words, minus the “rats ass” part (she was not one to use foul language) but the gentle encouragement was spot on. Nothing gentle about it, and no encouragement. The following post was written in response to a Daily Prompt a few years ago, and seeing as it is Mother’s Day I will share it again.

I read through many of the posts on the Daily Prompt page before sitting down to write a response, as I was curious if they would all be positive. Most were, but I did find a few that weren’t, so I felt better I would not be alone.

I did not have a mother or a relationship with my mother like those my friends had. Their mothers loved them unconditionally, built up their confidence, hugged and kissed them for no reason other than they wanted to show their love. Their mothers encouraged them, helped them to rise up to meet a challenge and stood by them as they climbed the mountain to reach it. They gave them guidance, listened to what they had to say, offered feedback with understanding.

If you were to ask my two sisters what their experience with my mother was, they might list all of the above. But not me. I was cut from a different cloth, more like my father, with his traits, which maybe was the first problem. She was never able to understand who I was, so different from her. I was sensitive, easy to cry, easily overcome with emotion if I couldn’t “get” something, which was always met with a response of stop being so dramatic, or get over it. I grew up hearing “you can’t” a lot, “what’s wrong with you” which only served to continually undermine my lack of confidence and self esteem. The answer was most often a resounding no when I wanted to try something new. Her own fears getting in the way of allowing me to grow. In school I was on my own, I longed for the mother who was interested in what her child was doing for homework, who helped with projects. I was not a “self starter” like my sister, who didn’t seem to need the “extra” something, the encouragement, she did just fine on her own.

My mother was great at pointing out the faults, never the positive in something that I accomplished. The focus was always on what was or had been, forever ingrained in her mind, never how I had improved or how far I had come. It was impossible for her to give me the compliment.

My BFF pointed out once that she thought my mother never really “got me”, never really understood who I was, nor cared to. I was different from her, so therefore I was wrong. She wasn’t emotional, wasn’t an emotional person, therefore how could her daughter be? She was pragmatic, so how could her daughter not be?

It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I finally came to terms with the fact that I would never hear from her that she was proud of me, never hear that she thought I had “done good,” that she loved me. You may ask why does that matter if I know I have accomplished things despite her lack of encouragement.  It matters. Maybe it is a built in preconceived notion or emotion that makes us seek approval from our parents, maybe it is the lack of that approval that makes us keep wanting it more. I spent a lifetime attempting to have her see me through positive eyes, to just once have her encourage me rather than say no, or don’t bother, or why would you want to do that? I realized it was never going to happen and it was time to just accept it.

There are different ways to accept something we have no control over changing. Accept it and continue on in the relationship with a different expectation, knowing you will never get what you need, or accept it and close the door on it. I chose to close the door. I chose to no longer bear the brunt of her negativity, her inability to give me what I needed emotionally. I needed to step away. I call her now and then, months can go by when I realize I haven’t even thought about her. Though her world has been shrouded in dementia for many years now, somehow she still manages to get in a dig or say something hurtful when I do call. I just laugh to myself when it happens, confirmation as to why I haven’t called in months and won’t call again for months.

She took care of what needed to be taken care of as I grew up, doctors appointments, braces for my teeth, clothes on my back, but I can never remember hearing I love you, or having her there for me when I was going through something challenging. Sometimes the clothes on your back are just not enough.

18 thoughts on “Mother

  1. I guess some women aren’t really cut out for motherhood. I have a sister-in-law who never had children, and I think it was by choice, just like her aunt before her. It sounds as though your dad more than made up for what your mother may have lacked in the parenting stakes.

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    • He did Sylvia-I think for my mother she was rigid and nervous which made it hard for her to have a child that didn’t fit neatly into all of her “boxes” I opted out of having children myself, knowing myself well enough to know it wouldn’t work so well 🙂

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  2. Thank you for this poignant post, Lisa. My relationship with my mother was loving and I always feel a tug on my heart when someone else hasn’t had the same kind of bond. I’m so happy that your dad provided the warm, loving, nurturing relationship you deserve.

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  3. The lucky thing was, Lisa, you had a great time with your father. I am sorry it wasn’t the same with your Dad. I wonder if your mother oddly felt “competition” or “jealous” of how much your Dad loved you, Lisa?
    I always feel bad when people have both parents not very kind to them. It is like they find a “scapegoat” or somehow think picking apart the person is appropriate. I feel bad for you because in the photograph you and your mother look so close!
    I am lucky to have a nice mom but I always had to share her with my friends and neighborhood girls in the summer time. I am still close to her, but she tends to be a little bit angry at her memory loss but doesn’t mean to lash out. I understand her and forgive her “mean” moments and she always says I was her “best friend.” I am not bragging, just expressing how lucky I am to have her. I miss my Dad and we grew to understand each other after what he himself admitted his retirement and “Oprah” watching days. Lol. He truly explained to me why I had been cranky as a teenager once a month, why I was able to be this or that due to his latest lesson on a woman’s talk show!
    Happy Mother’s Day and hope you are having a wonderful day with your husband! 🙂

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  4. A very thoughtful post that sometimes the relationship between a parent and their child is awkward – the personalities too different to find a middle ground.

    Throughout my childhood and into my adult years, I felt that my mom didn’t *like* me. She loved me as a mother loves her children, but as you said, she never *got me* and I had too close a resemblance to my paternal grandmother with whom my mother had a very rocky relationship.

    At one point shortly after I graduated from university, my mother said to me I wouldn’t inherit anything because “I could take care of myself”.

    It wasn’t until years later when I had children of my own, our relationship changed. We finally found some common ground and we could start to relate to each other.

    Long before she passed away, I was able to *forgive* her for her flaws. In the end, we do the best we can as parents and mistakes get made although the way.

    I’m grateful that my sons have been able to see past mine.

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  5. We didn’t all have mothers who were like those Other Mothers. I didn’t, but I have come to appreciate min. My mother was more protective and “motherly” to both my siblings than she was to me. She said, before she died, that I didn’t need it, but they did. I wanted to yell at her that I needed it too. She thought I needed intellectual feeding, not hugs. That I was tough and could take care of myself. She was (mostly) right, but it took me most of a lifetime to understand.

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  6. Our mothers must have been sisters, Lisa. The kicker with mine was that she died on my daughter’s 5th birthday. I drove down for the funeral and was told I was not allowed to see her in her casket and not allowed in her house. Still showing the love even when she was gone…..I closed the door a long time ago. For my own sanity and well-being, I had to.

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    • Lois thank you for the “validation” I am sorry you had what you had with your mother, but I always feel like I was the only one to have a less than perfect relationship. ❤

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  7. It is so sad that this happened to you… I can only imagine how lonesome you maybe felt sometimes while waiting for encouraging words or words of love from your mother… :o(

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    • Part of me understands that she was just who she was, where she came from, but the other part says how come you couldn’t change? I am thankful my father was always there 🙂

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