There are some lessons that one may only learn via time, I find. My mother was young, very young, when she had me. She was not prepared. I begin to think few of us truly are; you hear the stories, you read and are instructed by your female family members (as available), but at the end of the day, it’s just you and the tiny life you’ve created – living each day the best you can and hoping you’re “good enough” at it that your child is a healthy, happy addition to the human race.
I’m very proud of my daughter and of my son; though it’s a fact that our relations are, at best, strained and, at worst, detrimental to one another.
You have no idea how much it hurts to say that, but it’s true, so it may as well be said.
It’s my fault, of course. I wasn’t ready for parenthood, though (at least in one case), I was not very, very young. My life until very recently was a tremulous mass of change and lack; no sooner one thing would calm than another get combusted.
I had no family to speak of, and most people aren’t really that interested in putting more than a toe in a life not their own so, in many ways, I was truly “on my own”.
It is almost impossible to describe the feeling of realizing that your best just isn’t good enough. But I think the worst is realizing that you’re “unnecessary”. I suppose in some ways, it means I got that much right. But mostly, it just feels kind of hollow.
Like many single parents, I made the mistake of having no life to try and ensure my kids had a better one. Overkill, really. I suspect that had I been a little more balanced in relation to it all, things would be quite different.
Compounding things, I wanted to be a friend to my kids. Not in the “BFF” way, but in the “anytime, anywhere, anything” way. I kind of forgot that this is an unrealistic expectation that could only snarl things for me, them, we all.
Currently, my daughter and two grandchildren are living somewhere (I have no address for them) and the move was somewhat “stealth mode”; I wouldn’t even have known they were moving had I not been over to drop off presents; arriving just in time to watch my daughter look straight at me and then, turn her head and pull out and away as if I were unseen.
It’s not like it wasn’t clear to me, I think I was in denial.
For me, that was kind of the last straw. I can understand kids not wanting to have their parents around all the time.
But I also understand why a daughter refuses to allow you at her marriage.
Or why every holiday is spent “elsewhere”, but oh, hey, we’ll drop by, don’t worry; or why visits are short and excuses are plentiful.
Or why you’re not allowed to be present for the birth of your grandchildren.
Or why when you are told of the event, it’s on social media.
Nothing personal, it’s just life. (But try telling that to my heart. All I see is that there is always “a reason”, it always requires me to be understanding of being left out, and it’s usually wrapped in blame or passive-aggressive attacks.)
But, no denying that it’s clear I’m not needed. Perhaps not quite unwanted, but definitely allocated to the “on call” section of life.
Faced with the “my way or the highway” song, I chose the highway at last. I’m too damned old to spend the rest of my days pining for the family I’ve never had and I’m not willing to pretend my needs are secondary to me anymore.
I’ve never asked others to meet them and I don’t intend to start now.
My mother and I parted ways over an argument about her father, my grandfather. She died a few years later. I was on-the-road trying to recover from the dot com bust, so I didn’t get to go to the funeral. To this day, I have no idea where she is even buried. I said my farewells long ago, sleeping on a tile floor in a flophouse in Houston, Texas… sometimes, you just have to be content with the best you can do.
I know my children are resentful and angry because the best I could do just wasn’t good enough.
They’re right. I didn’t have the things to give them. I didn’t have the time because I was working or trying to keep my head on my shoulders with no personal time but closing myself in my room for a few hours after homework, supper, and evening entertainments were finished and young heads were tucked into their beds.
Not to mention the various forms of hell being visited by the ex-husband, his new wife, the bills, the attorneys, or just living the day to day reality of knowing that if you fall, no one is going to pick you (or your child) up.
But that was decades ago. Seriously. Decades. I’ve talked myself blue in the face, said every form of “sorry” I could create, and if “sorry” was going to fix things, I think that would have happened by now.
Ultimately, I think children come to peace with their parents the same way – they either have kids and discover it in how their kids grown up and say and do the same things (regardless how “right” you got it, by the way, but I’m not supposed to say that)… or they think about their own parents and their conflicts with them and slowly, over years, they understand. Or, they never do; to whatever ends that takes them.
I in my middle years… and I know I have come to it by having my own children. I believe my mother did as well. Likely the same for all the generations that close this particular loop, I suppose.
That’s what I tell myself, anyway. So I deal. And I move on. Except for moments like this, when stupid Hallmark holidays roll around and I have to remind myself of all of this and find something to occupy me until they pass for the year.
What else is there to do?
Buddhism teaches that we should practice loving others as if they were our own mothers. It’s a slow practice for me and clearly, I’ve passed my slow learning trait to my kids. But maybe, just maybe, I’ve managed to make the choices to ensure they land a little further afield from the ol’ family tree than I did.
If that’s as much as I can say, I’m ok with it. After all, isn’t that the point?
I wish my children to be happy, regardless my presence or its lack in their life.
I wish my children to be healthy, hoping the ailments I endure pass them by.
I wish my children to be hopeful, convinced they can do whatever must be done to find what they need in life.
I wish my children to be better than me and for their children to be better than them.
This is my daughter’s first “Mother’s Day” and I hope it is amazing. If so, then mine is, too; active presence may not be allowed, but passive presence will exist as long as I do.
This is not my son’s first “Mother’s Day”, but I hope he has everything he needs every day, so this is nothing new for me. He and I said our goodbyes long ago and regardless the door remaining open, no shadow of him do I see. Nor will I, I guess. I’ve learned to be ok with that, too.
My mother’s day will be happy simply because my children exist in the world and, for lack of any information otherwise, they are happy and well.
As a mother, what more could one ask of the world?