Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thoughts on Mothering

When I was young I was convinced my mother was the greatest mom around. I felt this way through my teenage years, but then as I entered adulthood I began to reevaluate my opinion on the matter.

I came to resent the way that I was unprepared to deal with life. I felt that she had neglected to prepare me for not only the practicalities of living, but also how to deal with hardship, stress and relationships. I decided that she was too immature to effectively parent. I often wished she would not have had me... sometimes I hated her for how hard even simple aspects of living were for me.

I blamed her for not knowing how to manage money, time, my home and my life. I blamed her for not protecting me from people who hurt and damaged me; I blamed her for not giving me the parenting I needed and deserved.

I still feel like I was shorted in the parenting department. It is true that she was not an ideal parent and that I was/am ill-prepared for life. I am finding, though, that I blame her much less.

I've begun to imagine what life must have been like for her. She was 21 when she had my older brother, 25 when she had me. She married my father when she was 20. She had never lived outside of her parent's home; she was sheltered and cared for until the day she was married. Then, this innocent girl soon found she had married a monster. My father intimidated and abused her mentally, physically and emotionally throughout their marriage. I used to blame her for not leaving him, for not having better taste in men... finally I'm beginning to see how hard it must have been.

For now I look at my innocent child. I see how beautiful she is and know that my mother saw the same thing in my brother and I. I see how hard it is to adjust to being responsible for someone completely helpless and dependent and see how frightening it is to imagine doing it alone. I know she loved my father... now I imagine how hard it must have been to love a man you are afraid of. Perhaps loving Eric, someone I will never have to fear, has given me the strength to understand how awful it would be to feel so connected to someone unworthy of my love.

I see that she must have tried to protect us, that she was not prepared to have to though. She was not taught to watch out for people hurting her children. She was naive and did not know the evil that sometimes lurks within seemingly safe people... things like that were not discussed then, they didn't happen... at least not publicly.

And while I still wish I would have had a better childhood, that I would not have so intimately learned the possibilities of cruelty in others, I no longer blame her for giving me life. I can see how she must have happily anticipated the birth of my brother and I... as joyfully as I did. How she must have spent hours holding us, memorizing our tiny hands and feet, trying to decipher the color our eyes would become and who's nose and lips we had.

And I finally know, once more, that my mother really did love me. I know that, even with all of her failings, she gave us the best she had to give. Perhaps it was not as much as I would have hoped for, but it was more than many people have had. And now I can take from her the lovely things she did give us... Singing to Lily, telling her stories, making paper dolls, playing silly car games on long trips and the comfort of mommy hugs.

I think she's taught me more about being a mom than I ever thought I'd give her credit for. Some things by example and others through omission. In any case I am hopeful that I will be able to be the kind of mother I dream of being to Lily, and loving Lily has given me the peace to know my mother gave us all she had to give.

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