Our relationship has often not been easy. I think from the time I was 12 until I left for college at 18 I probably screamed at her every day. (She often screamed back.) Mostly I didn’t feel she had the right to tell me what to do. Yeah….I know legally she did. And it was her responsibility as a parent. But still I felt that if I was willing to take responsibility for my actions, including any consequences that came from them, I should have that freedom. I also always felt like she who should know me best should understand I was capable of making good decisions. She always worried I wouldn’t. That meant for tension. I think it was about when I left for college that I first started understanding this and seeing it didn’t totally have to do with her lack of faith in me. That last year before college she kept plying me with questions of how I would handle this situation or that situation. Irritated I finally asked “Do you think I am stupid?” Her response was “I am just afraid that there are things we haven’t taught you that you need to know.” I started to understand it… a little! She wanted to make sure she had done her job well.
I have always felt like my mom was very critical of me. She feels she is trying to be helpful, to give me advice or tell me the truth. I just feel criticized and like I don’t quite measure up. I have always made up my own mind about things, and tried not to let the criticism or opinions of other carry too much weight. I like that about myself. And it works well with most people. But with my mom, even if I discount it on the surface, it gnaws underneath. A minor criticism becomes a major one. A major criticism is a failure. The weighting I place on her words is different than the weight to comments from anyone else on earth. I definitely overreact. And it annoys me that it matters that much. But it does. It’s the opinion of my mom.
And I must acknowledge that I mirror that back to her. I am more critical of her than I am of other people. I expect her to live to a higher standard than I expect from others. She who taught me how to judge people by their hearts and not by things they had no control over, who taught me to give and receive with grace and thanksgiving, and to keep short accounts with those you love, resolve issues and move on….made me see her as superhuman. I expect her to live to a standard that is probably quite impossible….and probably one I don’t want to be held to myself.
But yet, I know for sure there is no one who loves me more. Never once in my life have I seriously doubted that. That love is not conditional. I can call in any crisis, be truthful about who I am and what I did. She will not tell me what I did was OK, or that it had to be someone else’s fault, but she will help me develop a plan of action to get through it. She has never looked at me with blind eyes. My character has always mattered beyond everything else to her. That I tell the truth. That I accept responsibility when I screw up. That I go beyond accepting responsibility and try to go an extra mile and learn a life lesson. Figure out how to not let it happen again. And realize that my actions do not only affect me….they affect others. Rose colored glasses do not often raise good human beings.
The only time I remember my mother being mad about my grades in school was when I made a “Needs Improvement” in Citizenship in 7th grade (given to me by Mrs. Jordan.) You won’t find it hard to believe that it was for talking. Mom hit the ceiling. There never was a lot of pressure at our house when it came to grades, but that was the one I was punished for. To be disrespectful to our teachers was not acceptable behavior. Not only did she request my seat be moved in my classroom away from the friend I talked to (which I do believe was Tania Helms Bogenschneider), but until she was assured that my behavior had improved, I was basically under house arrest. The rule in our house was that with any punishment at school, we would get twice the punishment at home. And that rule was adhered to. The teacher was always right, because they owned the classroom. No excuses were acceptable. Adults were to be respected. I know now what a gift that point of view gave me. We always have a boss or someone in authority over us. Our first reaction should be respect. Not whether we agree with them or not. Not excuses acceptable, other than going against the law or morality.
My mom took the job of parenting seriously. It was her priority. She didn’t care to be my friend. I remember telling her one day that one of my friends said her mom was her best friend (implying that if she would just be a bit cooler maybe she could be mine.) My mom could not have cared less. She said “You’ll have a lot of friends in life and only one mother.” And she was right. Moms trump friends. Moms are different from friends. Moms have responsibilities that friends don’t. I sometimes see moms now that use their children as their confidant and sounding board. My mother never did that. I am grateful. I was allowed to be a child. My mom solved my childhood problems…..she didn’t make it my job to solve her grown up ones. She was the parent, I was the child.
My mom raised five children that are very different from each other, but also very similar. We are all opinionated, we are all stubborn, we are all independent, we are all loyal. We can all be a pain in the neck, but we also have people in our lives willing to point that out to us. Not just with each other, but all of us tend to choose friends who will do the same. (And we appreciate those people.) We argue amongst ourselves on occasion, but generally with humor and don’t hold grudges against each other. I think as adults we would get good citizenship awards, though we all still may talk too much on occasion.
My mom has been able to transition to being the mom of adult children. She doesn’t interfere with our decisions. She doesn’t put a lot of demands on us. While she still cares about our character (and her heart breaks when she sees a fault line there), she allows us to make our own mistakes and deal with their own consequences. She allows that independent side of me to have its hard won freedom, even when I do things that she deems a bit crazy or risky. I don’t feel guilty for this or apologize for it….she can handle it. She is a strong woman who taught me to be a strong woman. I am sure she worries about us just as much as she did when we were younger, but she lets us be adults. Maybe I should state it a bit stronger….she expects us to be adults. Evidence that she has done her job well is that we are capable of taking care of ourselves.
What the adult me knows is this: It is a gift to have a mom who takes their job seriously. It is a gift to have a mom who pays attention to their children, noticing both the good and the bad. It is a gift to have a mom whose love for you is pure. It is a gift to have a mom who is in your corner cheering you on. It is a gift to have a mom who cares. It is a gift to have a mom who has faith in the grown up that she has raised.
On this Mother’s Day, thank you for the gifts, Mom. I know everyone on this earth didn’t get a great mom. You are loved and appreciated. Even when I may not act like it. Of all the moms in the world, you were uniquely given the gifts to make me the person I am. You were meant to be my mom. You were chosen by God for me and I love you for taking on that challenge. And continuing to take it on, even now!