Monday, November 29, 2004

Maternal musings...

The discussions over at Profgrrrrl's, Geeky Mom's, Dr. B's, and--oh, just about every other blog I read--have got me thinking about family, specifically the parent/child relationship.

I was raised primarily by my Mom; my father left her when he found out she was knocked up. We lived with my grandparents for the first few years; Granddad died just after I turned 2; we stayed with Grandmom until Mom remarried when I was 8 and she stayed in that marriage until just after I graduated college. My mom and I have had a somewhat complicated relationship. We're very different in a lot of ways and frighteningly similar in others. As a child, I was probably closer to my Grandmom than to my Mom, who worked to support us; Grandmom was the one who stayed with me while Mom worked. That changed after Mom remarried, but Mom's second marriage was abusive on a number of levels that I don't want to get into right now, which tainted our relationship for a long time. I did the typical enmeshed-daughter eating disorder routine, and it took me nearly 30 years to figure out and begin to let go of the responsibility complex I'd built up so nicely.

Despite all this, we now have what I consider to be a great relationship. Even when we disagree or when I feel that she doesn't understand me, I feel loved and supported, and I hope Mom feels the same. I think the key is, despite her shortcomings and mistakes, she's always wanted me to be my own person and to be truly happy, on my own terms. She's told me that at several major points in my life (e.g., when I was starting school, when I graduated h.s.) many of her friends said, "Oh, doesn't it just kill you to see her growing up?" And her response was always, "No, I think it's entirely fascinating to watch her grow. It's so neat to get to be here to see all she's learning and to see the woman she's becoming." Now, being a mom, I understand what an amazingly generous and loving sentiment that is. To find such a place, between wanting to hold on to your kids or being so fed up with them you wish they were already in college, is no small thing. I think she's always been a stronger person than I gave her credit for; I especially believe this now that I know what it's like to be a single mom. I hope that I've learned from her mistakes, but I also hope that I've learned from her successes. Sometimes it's so difficult to see both in our parents.

Sometimes--especially during an altercation with the Boy--I look ahead and have this horrible moment of fear that one day he'll be filled with resentment about all the times I screwed up. Then I take a deep breath, and try again to be my mother's daughter--a woman who isn't perfect, but who's still growing and learning, and who loves her kids enough to let them in on her mistakes.

But I'm starting a therapy fund. Just in case.

6 comments:

bitchphd said...

That's a really cool and impressive story--on your part too. It's hard to get to the point where we can see our parents clearly, as imperfect human beings.

Psycho Kitty said...

Heck, thanks. I think being a parent makes it both harder and easier--it gives you more empathy, but can also pour salt in certain wounds. As the Then once said when the Boy was about 2, "I look at him and I can't understand how my father ever could have done the things he did to me. I would rather die."

Laura said...

My father took the same attitude as your mother. He was constantly saying how he enjoyed watching me grow. I think he is my role model for parenting more so than my mother. I think he learned a lot when he met my stepmother who had a 3 year old son at the time. He basically got to parent again having seen the end result and he admitted that some things he didn't do so well the first time, but he did the best he could. I think it's important to acknowledge that we're not perfect and I hope I've done that with my own kids.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

What a great story -- both very real and very inspiring.
I agree with you, it is the underlying love and desire for the other to be happy that is so important, even when you don't fully agee.

Wanna Be PhD said...

eating disorder? responsibility complex?
welcome to the club!

Anonymous said...

One of the most troublesome way to go through life, is having to deal with an eating disorder. Thank you so much for putting up this blog to help others learn more about the dibilitating facts of these eating disorders