When I first became a mother, I was obnoxious and bordering on smug. I had it all figured out and knew exactly the kind of mother I was going to be. Most of all, I knew exactly the kind of mother I was NOT going to be…the one I had. I could point out, in nauseating detail, all the things my mother had gotten wrong in her mothering career. It was glaringly obvious to me that she did this or that wrong, which certainly resulted in this or that behavior. Over the years, I struggled to have a somewhat meaningful relationship with her (while still inwardly picking apart almost all of her parenting choices, especially the ones including myself).
As my daughter increasingly comes into her own ~ her own independence, her own life, her own power ~ I see myself through her eyes (as much as I can). Even more startling, I see my teenage experiences with my mother in a new light. I start to see that perhaps she wasn’t some of the awful things I’ve long described her as.
I see now many of my parenting is parallel to my mother’s parenting. She had “two” families, of sorts…I was an only child for 12 years until my brothers came along, resulting in her parenting both a young adult person and babies/toddlers. So am I. She had divorce and marriage during some pivotal times in my life. So did I. Off and on, she was a single, overworked, underpaid, exhausted person. So was I, for a short time. She cooked food that I thought was weird and refused to eat. So do I.
Was she, like me, struggling to find that balance between self and family? Was she doing the very best she could 99% of the time, while also being acutely aware that it was never enough? Did she yearn to hold me close, stroke my hair, breathe in just *one more* fleeting child moment? Did she delight in my delights, worry about my worries, wonder what was in my head? Did my burgeoning independence, my constant pushing for more freedom, leave her crying into her pillow at night…hoping that she was doing the right thing by allowing me the freedom I insisted I needed, while wishing I wanted her just a bit more? Did she think that maybe what I wanted was opposite of what I was saying, but didn’t know how to give it without disrespecting my autonomy?
Am I repeating my own mother/daughter history?
Will my daughter spend a chunk of her womanhood feeling about me the way I felt about my mother?
I wish I knew the answers to these questions. The only thing I know, for certain, is that the love a mother has for her daughter is fierce. And one must hope that this fierce love is enough.