“A mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled.”
I clung to her leg like a snail to a rock in stormy seas. Steadfast in my refusal to let go, I stared at my feet and made no attempt to hide the tears pouring from my giant chocolate colored eyes.
“I don’t want to go.”
Hiccupping and sobbing as we walked side-by-side, she reassured me in quiet tones.
“I won’t leave. I will be right there.”
At last we reached the sports field and it was time to let go. For one hour, I was to play games with other five-year-olds. For one hour, I was to trust strangers.
Quiet and introverted, I preferred the company of my dolls under the close supervision of my mother. I had no need for classes and other kids.
“I will be right here.”
She promised to sit on the bench and watch. She promised to be there always. And she did. Every time I glanced in her direction she met my gaze with a huge smile and enthusiastic wave. She didn’t chat with the other moms. She never moved from her seat. For that morning, she sat still and smiled – making good on her promise.
38 years later I find myself making similar promises to my little girl. Quiet and introverted, she prefers the comfort of home and family. She shines when she finds her way out of that shell, but taking that first step takes patience and understanding.
Mother-daughter relationships are written about often because of the complex nature of the relationship. There are ups and downs and ages and stages, and sometimes there can even be moments of silence.
Some wonder if they will measure up to the perceived successes of their mothers. Others are adamant that they can do better. I will never be like my mother, they think, as they try their best to do the opposite.
What children don’t always see is the mother behind the mother.
There is the mother who keeps the family safe and on track. Cooking, working, doing, going, shuffling, and sometimes even using a bit of magic. On the surface, mothers are consumed with busy.
But then there is the other part of motherhood. The quiet part; the part that doesn’t often see the light of day. Watching, worrying, problem-solving, planning…mothers are always thinking about their children.
And motherhood lasts a lifetime…
My mother has stood behind me for 38 years. She has coddled, she has pushed, she has hugged, she has cheered…but she has never once stopped mothering. She has never once walked away.
She has cried with me when crying was the only thing to do. She has yelled with me when yelling seemed necessary. She has laughed with me and made me laugh. And she has listened every time I came running.
Some people think that mothers need to take a step back when their daughters become mothers. That this is the defining moment – where mother/daughter becomes friend/friend.
Perhaps that might be true at times.
But my mother has continued to mother. We’ve found friendship and she has allowed me to help her just as she helps me, but always she remains my mother.
Parenting is long and winding road and there is no shortcut. There is trial and error, there is information, there is support, there is friendship, and there is love. But there is no easy button.
When I hear people say that they want to do the opposite – that they don’t want to end up like their mothers – it breaks my heart just a little bit. Because when I think about the essence of my mother – the thing that makes us the same – it’s strength.
Behind the scenes, during the moments I didn’t see as a child, my mother learned to rely on strength. She faced obstacles, she fought hard for her children, and she never ever gave up mothering. She remained strong when we faced great loss and encouraged us to find our own strength along the way.
Although there times that I wish I didn’t need the strength I seem to possess, I am grateful to have found that strength from watching my mother.
It isn’t about being the opposite or doing better. It isn’t about her way or my way. It’s about taking the best of what she taught me and starting there. It’s about working tirelessly behind the scenes so that my own daughter may one day find the strength she needs to cope with the ups and downs that life has to offer.
It’s about mothering always and loving forever.
I am my mother’s daughter, and for that I am proud.