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Letting Go of the Past
After my recent Mother's Day post about my mom, I had a short email from the gumbo maker herself:
I was embarrassed by your blog because you left out all the negatives, but I am very pleased by the bottom line.
Wish I could go back and do it better.
We all just do the best we can.
Bottom line, kiddo, is you turned out great.
It's not the first time my mom has made a comment to me about how I ignore the negatives in my upbringing here on my blog. So, of course, I thought I'd drag it all out into the Blogosphere. Because who doesn't want to read about my dysfunctional life?

Lest you all think that my relationship with my mom has been all music, light, and harmony, let me assure you that it has not. My mother and I are more alike than I would ever admit while growing up, and that caused some problems. We're both stubborn, opinionated, aggressive when we feel we've been wronged, and did I mention stubborn? I should probably emphasize the stubborn part.

In fact, my mom and I stopped speaking for months at a time on more than one occasion. In fact, between the Summer of 2002 and the Summer of 2004, we hardly spoke at all. That particular fight began over some political joke that I made, which my mom took personally. I, of course, thought that she was completely overreacting. My family is full of drama queens. Except, of course, me. I am always completely rational. Completely. I have my INTJ badge to prove it. Yep. Totally rational here.

I didn't realize until recently that the fight my mom and I had in 2002 wasn't really about politics at all. It was about my mother feeling that she wasn't important to me anymore. That her feelings weren't important to me anymore. And I stubbornly asserted my independence, not really understanding what or why I was pushing away.

We were drawn back together when I finally let my family know what was going on in our attempts to start a family. I was in pain and I needed family to listen. And then with the happy news of Hollis, our relationship began to mend. My mom and I still regularly butt heads, and we probably always will. But it's different now.

I've been in that dark place that motherhood can take you to. I've felt the wonderful, sleep deprived adrenalin highs. And I've watched my own heart smile at me, sweetly sigh in sleep on my husband's chest, roll over, take those first wobbly drunken steps, and say "mama." Twice.

What I've tried to tell my mom in response to her comments is that the mistakes she made just don't seem all that important anymore.

I understand in a way I couldn't while growing up. I understand why sometimes she was depressed or short with us. I understand why we didn't always have an immaculately clean house like some of the Stepfords did. (OK, now I can see my mom wincing and thinking, "Did you have to tell them that? Did you?") I understand why she pushed me so hard. I understand why she was so protective.

My mother loved me. She loved me and my brother more than anything in the world. She did the best she could.

You're right, Mom. We all just do the best we can.

And you did a pretty damn good job.

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Blogger CPA Mom said...

Amen sister! I had a rough road with my mom but she and I are very close now. Because I have the perspective of time as well. And perspective of being a Mom. It's not all wine and roses, but you know that. And your mom and my Mom know that. It's too bad it takes a life time to appreciate all our Moms (and Dads!) did for us.

Blogger Amber said...

As one who has had a veritable roller-coaster ride with her mother, I think this is one fantastic post. Our relationship has been healing over the years but the same personality traits that cause us to butt heads are those my daughter shares with me. Makes me extra cognizant about building a strong foundation now while I can....

Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

All my issues with my mom seemed much less important after I had kids too.

(I'm ENTJ - but only just over the I line.)

Blogger PT-LawMom said...

Great post!

Blogger newnorth said...

this is a really great post. thank you for it

Blogger Bon said...

i hadn't thought about it, but you're right. my mother's 'failings' seem, for the most part, less significant now...because i can see that most of them were errors made on the side of love. bad judgmement, IMO, but good love. whereas my issues with my father, who left when i was a baby, have resurfaced uncomfortably since i had O...all the old, long-buried hurt comes back. as a parent, i can understand and forgive my mother quite easily. but my father becomes harder and harder to understand.

great post.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Bon - What you say is interesting. A dear friend of mine has had the same uncomfortable feelings towards her father - who left the family when she was small - since having children. Being a parent makes it harder to understand how someone could just walk away.

Blogger Macometer said...


Do you mind checking out this link, its a website for missing toddler Madeleine Mccann. Perhaps you won't mind putting the videos on your blog since so many people visit it daily. Thanks a bunch, its heart wrenching stuff, poor little girl.


Blogger Gwen said...

I love my mom, I do. And we have a decent relationship. But strangely, it was having children that made me get mad at her. Because it wasn't the little things that had ever bothered me. It was that she made some life choices that had enormous consequences for me that I couldn't imagine making for and with my own children. My husband on the other hand, who has two functioning but very alcoholic parents (can you be very alcoholic? is that redundant?) who inflicted all kinds of nasty damage, found all sorts of forgiveness once he had his first daughter. I commend him for that, actually. And you. This was lovely.

Blogger Binky said...

My mother would be outraged if she knew I wrote about her on a blog. She is a firm believer in not letting anyone see the family's dirty laundry. The clean laundry, however, she will take photos of and send into every local newspaper, church bulletin and radio station. At any rate, I don't let any of my family know about my blog, but I try not to write too much about my mother anyway. It is great that you have the kind of relationship with your mom that enables you to share your blog with her.

Blogger Mimi said...

Hey, I'm an ENTJ (but like Joys, just a little E). Huh.

Moms. Complicated. But shag carpets? Priceless.

What a thoughtful post.

Blogger PunditMom said...

I have SUCH a rocky (read: non-existent) relationship with my mother. I'm not a praying kind of gal, but I do pray that I will have a much better mother/daughter relationship with PunditGirl.

Also, nice shag carpet! ;)

Blogger jen said...

lovely. just lovely. and i am an ENTJ....hmmmm.

Blogger Melinda said...

Wonderful post, Steph. You are ever the eloquent writer. HUGS!

Blogger Treadmillista said...

I'm another INTJ!

My Mom and I have never had a falling out, but there were many years where we just weren't close. She moved away when I was 13 and I lived with my Dad. Living with my Dad was a choice I made, I did have the option of moving across the country with her after a few years, but I just couldn't do it. I didn't realize until I had kids, just how incredibly hard that move must have been for her. I know she had good reasons for going, but we ended up having a big crying fit about it when she came to visit after my first was born.

I've forgiven her now, we've moved on, and I keep telling her that she has to forgive herself. I still don't think I totally understand how she could move away, but I do know that she was still a big part of my life despite the distance. Becoming a parent has taught me that there are no easy answers, and we do all make mistakes.

Sorry for my ramblings...great post!

Blogger Christine said...

My first visit here. . .I really liked this post. Hit home I guess. My mom and i have had some ROUGH spots, but i can so easily see now why. I can understand the frustration, the over-worry, etc.

Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Such a sweet, sweet post. I so get this, all of it.

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

How awesome, and how wonderful of her to be honest that way...and to compliment you.

I'm in a weird place about family right now.

I'm somewhere between you, Bon and Gwen in my feelings. Or maybe not between but spread across.

Becoming a parent has shined some light that has increased or brought new anger; it has also brought fresh understanding.

P.S. INTJ here too. Totally rational. No drama. LOL ;)

Blogger ewe are here said...

You're incredibly lucky you and your mom have reached this stage. Truly.

My mom and I have struggled with our relationship over the years, and we, too, have gone for long periods of time not talking. I sometimes wonder if we're in such a period at the moment.

Blogger slouching mom said...

Stubborn? Yeah. Sigh.

My mom and I, too.

Makes things more contentious than they need to be, sometimes.

I so appreciate your honesty here.

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