Mother to daughter…daughter to Mother
My mother, may God rest her soul. She is me, I am her. My daughters…they are me and I am them. Relationships can be perplexing. Relationships between mothers and daughters are the most perplexing.
Daughters like me spend all their time trying not to be like their mothers.
What perplexes me is how or why do girls try to not be like their mothers? When we are little, we see the mother as the woman that’s so great and you want to be like them. We imitate dressing, make up, and even playing with their shoes.
Where does that relationship change?
When does it change?
Do we become ashamed?
I thought girls were supposed to admire their mothers?
Why is the one woman that you admire most the, the same person you try hard not to become?
Why do we get upset when someone says that you act just like your mom?
I wonder about this sometimes.
My first child was born when I was 17. My relationship is different with her and very strained with my youngest daughter and my middle daughter is from another mother. Our relationship is rocky and probably won’t change until she’s grown.
My mother and I are very alike and that’s scary. Was this why we had so much distance between us?
My oldest sister and my mother were very close. Kind of like the relationship that I have with my oldest daughter. How did that come to be? Is it because it’s the first child and they’ve survived the experiment before the other kids were born?
I look at #3 and it’s like looking in the mirror. She looks so much like me. Does our likeness make us worlds apart?
I’m so confused. I am not my mother but yet I am. Why was I so ashamed of her? Am I ashamed? Is my drive to work so hard driven by shame? Or is it driven by the knowledge that our kids are supposed to do better than what we’ve accomplished as parents? Is the distance between #3 and I there because I see myself? Or is it because my own mother loved me but she wasn’t the affectionate type? Ironically, she was the affectionate type to other people’s children. Miss Yvonne was loved by many and she showed love or told them she loved them. She wasn’t that way to me until I have moved away from home and had been away for a little while. I try to figure out why I am so bottled up. I hardly pay #3 any special attention to her. #3 is self sufficient. I’ve taught #3 how to cook, clean, and take care of herself, thoroughly. My expectations of #3, is that she can hold her own unlike #1 and #4. My patience is always short with #3. I expect the best from her and I’m uncompromising when it comes to her. Is it because she’s me? Is it because I know who she comes from and I have such high standards for me?
Was my mother thinking the same about me? Did she live through me? Did she know something about me that I just don’t see? I didn’t learn to understand (somewhat) my mother until right before she died. Our real conversations didn’t begin until illness took a hold of her body and she was forced to deal with her mortality. Her relationships with her kids were all on an individual basis. She knew her kids each on a different level. (I guess we all do when we have kids. We (as the parents) know our kids on a different level that an outsider (other siblings, relatives, etc.) wouldn’t understand. She just wasn’t open as most mothers are. She just knew how to connect with each one. At her funeral, I truly had my first glimpse of what that meant. Each child had different experiences and stories of her. Some of them, we were hearing for the first time. Except for me. I had basically spent my while life fighting her. Trying to figure out what my place in her life was or running away from her. For me, I was running away from the shame. The shameful life that I thought she lived.
What kind of shame did I have? My mother didn’t drink, she didn’t use drugs, she didn’t sell her body, and she didn’t even have boyfriends. I was still ashamed. I was so ashamed because I didn’t understand how she could be so poor. Not just poor but poor poor.
My shame came from what I thought was a lack of money. I hated when we used food stamps at the grocery store. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me when was forced to use food stamps. I was even more embarrassed when my friends would eagerly take the food stamps my mother would give them to go to the sore.
My mother had clothes galore. Her closets were overflowing with clothes, however; she would stand out at the bus stop with me (every morning…rain or shine…sick or well) with multi-colored striped socks. These socks were pulled all the way up to her knees, holey shorts (or air conditioned as she would say), and a t-shirt (that was so raggedy that it was being held together by a string), a long johns shirt, hat, and these tennis shoes that were so old and raggedy that I couldn’t even identify what kind of tennis shoes there were any more. These shoes were holding on by faith. The kids that knew her didn’t care how she was dressed they just loved her. The kids that didn’t know her gave me non-stop grief.
I didn’t want her to come to my school. In the sixth grade, my school allowed us to go to Washington D.C. for a week. My mother wanted to chaperone but I flat out refused the request. I asked my aunt to go instead. I remember the hurt in her eyes. She never talked about it again. When I left, she told me to have a safe trip. When I came home, I experienced and attitude that was off the charts. She was so mean. She didn’t care if I had a great time on my trip and she didn’t want to hear how my trip went. It seemed like forever back then but she was very sad and upset with me for a few weeks. Maybe this is why she was so distant. She knew that I was ashamed of her. With plenty of hindsight now, what could she have done differently? Her hands were tied. Our circumstances were different. I was a late in life baby.
My siblings were almost grown when I was born. Our family had gone through a transition. My mother and father were no longer together after 30 plus years of being married. She was no longer plagued with infidelity or abuse any more. Her new challenge was how to take care of herself on her own. The half hearted security of being a house wife was no longer her security blanket. The same lady whose lap I used to sit in when I was small and sing silly songs was no more. Life became harder for a woman who’s level of education stopped somewhere around the 9th grade. Her entire adult life she was a housewife. A housewife with no job skills or experience, she had to depend on her adult children and other relatives to help her. Her cost for her freedom left her a shell of a woman.
I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as a perfect parent. What elements make a great parent? I didn’t know I was poor growing up until someone told me that I was poor. I didn’t know that I lacked anything until society told me that I was lacking. Society told me that I didn’t have everything that I was supposed to have by society standards. I was the happiest when I was poor. I can sum that into my life right now. I loved spending time with my sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I was a happy kid and there was no one like them.
As I walked out of her apartment for the last time, I realized that my mother was a very blessed woman. What I thought was hoarding (okay, part of it really was) was just a woman blessed beyond belief. She had an over flow of friends, family, and riches that money could never buy. What did my mother teach me? What did I learn? What kind of mother will my children think I will be once they are all grown and out of the house with families of their own? What will my legacy be?
My mother taught me how to be this fearless woman with a lot of heart. I was taught that you can have it all. It won’t be easy and I will have to work hard at whatever it is that I want to do. She supported my decisions regardless of how she felt about them. I was raised with family. I know that my family comes first and I need to do all I can to keep my family together.
I love my kids. My daughters have a great mother because I had a great mother. I’m not perfect. I have to show my daughters that this life we have is great. Go out and take on the world head on. I can’t teach them to go after their dreams. I can only show them how I’m going after my own dreams and hope that it will lead them to their own aspirations. I will always be honest and available to my girls. I will learn to listen and to become slower about giving my own opinion.
I have traveled the world. I am working the career of my dreams. I can only hope to be half the woman that my mother was. I hope that my daughters will be half the woman that I have become.
“My mother…she is me. I am her. My daughters…they are me…I am them.”
When I take my last breathe and God calls me home, I can only pray that my daughters know that I did my best and that I loved them with my soul. I will hope they will be able to look back at my life as a blueprint to their own lives. I hope they will consider me a good woman who they would be proud of.