I get this knot in my stomach and wave of distraught when Mother’s Day rolls around each year.
How do I celebrate in the face of having had lousy parenting?
Odes to moms who inspired, supported, expanded, guided and embraced in unconditional love ooze from, well, everywhere … from friends talking about their Mother’s Day plans with the old girl to special events that ceremoniously drape the day. Then there’s the incessant Internet patter – with Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the cyber posse giving up the love for mom.
I used to be resentful and even angry, with a big dollop of jealousy for those who got the good parents. It was like they landed in the Lucky Sperm Club and, in this instance, wealth didn’t have anything to do with it.
I use to tell myself I would have settled for a parent who was able to throw even a bone of emotional bonding my way. Of course, silly me, bonding is a childhood process – through the bedtime snuggles, help with homework, cooking lessons, and later, celebrating the first kiss, comforting the first break-up and crying together over all the other joys and struggles. It wasn’t to be for me.
Ah, I use to think, the person I could have been had it been different. But the years on the couch, the stream of workshops and retreats, the cathartic crying jags with girlfriends have moved my resentment-cum-regret-cum-brokenheartedness into a place of understanding and compassion for a woman who, I realize now, gave all that she could give.
So it’s not about forgiveness. What would I forgive? She gifted me the pieces of parenting she salvaged from her own broken childhood … a handed-down generational all-but-empty bag of parenting skills.
I have no idea about her childhood. The secrets she keeps of her upbringing are evidence enough that they were dark and debilitating and needed to stay in a locked vault. And, who knows, perhaps she did better for me than the parenting she received.
These days, in my Mother’s Day recovery, I stretch for ways to give gratitude to her. I was fed, clothed and had a warm bed. I couldn’t say it was a completely safe existence but there was a continuity that I somehow would be taken care of. Although there were a number of steps missing in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I believe she loved me to the full extent of her capabilities.
I’ll call her on Sunday and wish her Happy Mother’s Day, I will share talk of the weather, how she’s settling in after her move, and what she’s been up to. She won’t ask me. I know this. After a few clumsy minutes we’ll say goodbye.
Then that inevitable tinge of sadness will engulf me like a sudden thundershower. I will breathe it in, shake it off and congratulate myself that, after all these many years, I have become the person that I’ve always wanted to be. And calling my mother and honoring her role in my life is proof enough of that.
Image credit: smoorenburg