It has been well-documented, by now, that I have many angry, angsty, unpleasant thoughts about my mother – who died 24 years ago today.
On one hand, her death made it impossible for me to resolve any of those angry, angsty issues directly with her – but, then again, there’s no guarantee we’d ever have gotten to that place, anyway. Hard to say. On the other hand, her death forced me to figure some shit out at a fairly young age which, in my mind at least, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I got pretty damned independent in a lot of ways.
As a parent, now, I have come to realize that there is no winning at this – at least, not for most of us. All the things I do that are in reaction to my own upbringing are, I assume, the exact opposite of what the children in my house want/need and, as a result, will necessitate many angsty therapy sessions in their adult years to undo. Not that they’ll tell me this.
Perhaps you would like an example.
Growing up, I absolutely hated that my mother had very strong feelings about my appearance. One such example was when she forbid me to cut my hair and, when I did it anyway, endlessly reminded me that it was unflattering and then did a lot of dramatic sighing about how it hung in my face weirdly.
When I started dating Coffee, and he was all, “Hey, if you want pink hair let’s give you pink hair!” I was like, WTF, is this real? You love me AND you’re okay with me doing whatever the hell I want with the hair that I have worked hard to grow out of my own head and that I will have to wear around and that ultimately has nothing to do with you? FOR REAL?
It has taken me a lot of effort to figure out what I want to look like vs what my mother told me about how people should look.
As a result of this, I have been very determined to never, ever tell my children how they ‘should’ look. The only clothing rule I have ever implemented was that I did not want to see anyone’s underwear hanging out of their pants – and that applied only to circumstances where I was present. And, I suppose, my rule that clothing needs to be washed once in a while.
Want to shave your head / dye your hair / get your ear pierced / wear a tank top in the winter / shave parts of your eyebrows off / dress all in black / buy glasses in a weird shape? Go ahead. I will always ask, “Are you sure?” for any big decision that will take a while to grow back, and I will always suggest that you dress nicely for things like job interviews and graduations, but, well, it’s ultimately your choice how you’re presenting yourself in the world.
This means my kids will eventually be in a therapist’s office saying things like, “I wanted to shave my head and my mom said I could and then I hated it and my mother KNEW I would hate it but she didn’t stop me and that’s why I can’t trust anyone.”
This appearance thing is a tiny example. There are about 900 more issues that .. well, yeah.
Listen, I know that after 24 years without my mother, I should be ‘over’ some of the shit that I’m clinging to – but I’m still mad. I’m still mad AND there’s nowhere for me to direct that anger. I can’t seem to untangle some of the bullshit in my head and, goddammit, TWENTY FOUR YEARS HAVE PASSED.
Progress has been made, I promise. Progress will continue to be made.
I would like to very charitably forgive my mother and presume that she was doing the best she could, under the circumstances. I mean, I knew her mother pretty well and I know that wasn’t always a picnic of a relationship, either, and that shit has an impact. And I know that holding on to this shit isn’t helping anyone because someday I’ll be dead and that’ll be that. (Bleeeeeak!) Being mad at my mother doesn’t impact her at all. It doesn’t help me at all. And yet..
Is this my memorial tribute to my mom? Yeah, I guess. I didn’t know her as a person, a human, outside of her role as my mother – and even those bits are hazy and distorted through the lens of my childhood. I don’t know. I didn’t know her. I remember most of her mistakes, a few of her good traits, and.. what do I do with that? A big hole where she should have been, throughout my life, and no idea what would have been in that space if she had lived longer.