I know that I missed Mother’s Day with this post. I was away for the weekend with my husband and Little Man, taking advantage of a friend’s beachside timeshare. As it’s only May and we’re not exactly in Florida, the only swimming we did was in a heated pool, with the occasional dip in the hot tub. Being across the street from a wonderful beach, we walked it several times, checking out rocks and shells, and enjoying being by the salt water. It was a fun weekend getaway that we all needed.
Motherhood can be a loaded word. Some mother/child relationships are better than others, and some are downright complicated. When I was growing up, my expectations of motherhood were to be married by my mid-20’s and have 3 kids by my early 30’s. Beyond that, I didn’t have any details. I figured I’d have good relationships with my children, and life would be good.
My own relationship with my mother was very complicated. When mom was not depressed or manic, she was a great mother. I remember her sewing us matching dresses and skirts when I was little. And she always cooked us home cooked dinners. She
dragged took us to church and sent us to Sunday School. Because she was a professional violinist, she introduced us to music when we were very young. And at eight, when I had an opportunity to learn a musical instrument, I chose violin. Mom and I even played musical jobs together when I was in high school.
When mom’s mental illness dragged her down into depression, she struggled to be a mother. I’m sure she struggled to just be. I don’t have any memories of her depression when I was little, but I’ve spoken to friends of mom, who described her being severely depressed at times back then. Having a mother who struggled to make it from day-to-day might explain why I learned to cook when I was about six. I remember making my parents breakfast in bed: scrambled eggs, toast, and Sanka. Usually, our breakfast was cold cereal, toast and orange juice. We kids could do it all for ourselves.
The bad times were when mom was manic. When she flipped into mania, she changed. Badly. She would become paranoid and delusional. If I did or said something that rubbed her the wrong way, or when I was little, if I fussed, she would go off on me with a tongue as sharp as a Ginsu knife. She would slice and dice me up. And it cut me deep. Because they were unexpected, her attacks were like lightning strikes. I have blocked this out of my young memories, but have experienced her viciousness at about 2 years old when I was in hypnosis. I certainly remember her going off on me when I was a teenager, and that was when I first started to stand up for myself. She kept this up until her last manic episode (that landed her in a mental hospital for the fourth or fifth time).
When I finished college and headed out into the world, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and I was no where close to finding a husband. In fact, my dream of starting a family by my mid-20’s died when at 26 I entered a military styled maritime college. My social life was put on hold.
Marriage didn’t happen until I was 36, and when I became pregnant, I was thrilled beyond belief. But I suffered an early miscarriage. It tore my heart out, and I sunk into depression. Several months after the miscarriage, I got pregnant again, and this time, it took.
I had all sorts of expectations of what motherhood would be for me. I planned to have a natural childbirth and to nurse for at least a year. I planned to introduce my child to music when he was young, and to sports soon after. I expected my child to do well in school and to enjoy reading and writing as much as I do. A famous expression comes to mind: “You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” He must have laughed heartily at my plans.
Pregnancy brought nausea all day long for the first few months. And about a month after feeling better, I started to become pretty uncomfortable. No natural childbirth for me. In fact, my son entered this world via a totally unexpected emergency C-section. He was born seven weeks early and had a host of developmental delays and brain processing issues that were discovered when he was two. He was such a busy toddler that there was no taking him to the library for story time or any little kid music classes. When he started elementary school, it became evident that reading and writing were going to be big challenges for him (as well as math). With his anxiety, he’s never wanted to participate in any organized kids activities, including sports, scouting, karate, summer camp, and more. I have learned when it comes to my son, I have no expectations any more. I follow his lead and let him surprise me.
One thing I never expected about being a mother is how hard it has been at times. It’s been incredibly hard sometimes. But I also never expected how amazingly close my son and I are. And I never expected for my child to be such an amazing catalyst for my personal growth. In my relentless searching for ways to help him, I’ve discovered ways to help myself heal from the damaging parts of my childhood. It still blows my mind, thinking about it. One thing that was validating, was to have my mother compliment me, telling me what a good job I was doing raising my son. That felt good.
When I think about Mother’s Day and my own mother, it’s with very mixed emotions. I’m still working on moving past the hurt and pain. However, when I think about my being a mother with all of it’s challenges and all of the growth that has come, I am honored and amazed. Happy Mother’s Day Little Man. I love you to the moon and back.
*Note: All photographs are copyrighted by me.