My relationship with my mother was atypical.
Long before she was sick with multiple sclerosis, she was sick emotionally. She spent 15 years in an abusive marriage, 10 of which I witnessed. The years following were difficult. She was depressed and not without just cause.
She struggled with her role as a mother.
I struggled with my role as her daughter. I struggled with acceptance of who she was. I blamed her for not being the mother I wanted. I couldn't put words to it back then, so I was just angry. My anger fueled her depression, her guilt rising at every perceived and actual failure. Her expressions of guilt felt like judgement to me, perpetuating a cycle of blame between us.
Mother's Day was always hard. There were no cards that summed up how I felt about her.
Thank you for giving birth to me.
Thank you for letting me take care of you.
Thank you for not losing the house and managing to feed me again this year.
Perhaps those sentiments weren't fair. But teenagers, of all people, aren't always fair. And as the teen years gave way to adulthood, more responsibility was pushed to me.
Thank you for letting me contribute my meager part-time paycheck to the mortgage.
Thank you for always reminding me how miserable you are.
Thank you for "understanding" my need to move out, get married, start a family of my own.
There was no card that said, "I resent you, but you are my mother, so Happy Mother's Day." Believe me, I know. I scoured Hallmark annually for some card that suited our situation. I never found one.
After my son was born, I learned what it is to be a mother. I learned how children can rip your heart to shreds in so many different ways, both happy and sad. Children test the boundaries and they test them hard.
My son shows me he's angry at me so I may show him more that I love him. He pulls me into him so much that he smothers me so that I may show him that I will never abandon him. He loves me with all of his heart so that I may learn to accept that love from him, whether I feel like I deserve it or not. He pulls away and demands his independence so that I may learn that he will always come back to me because I am his mother.
He showed me how to open my heart up in ways I never knew that I could. He taught me that mothers are human, they are fallible. He forced me to learn to forgive myself and others, and to love unconditionally, even when others are not how we would choose for them to be.
Slowly, I am forgiving my mother. I am learning that she did the best she could, even if it's not what I wanted or needed. I am learning to accept that doing the best she could was all I could ever really ask of her. She loved me, I understand that now, even when I remember times where her actions felt contrary to that notion.
She loved me. And I love her.
Mother's Day will always be hard for me. I will never get a chance to tell my mother all that I've learned from my son. I can't tell her that I understand her now better than I ever did before.
I can tell my son how much I love him, though. I can thank him for teaching me things I never even knew I needed to learn. It is because of him that I can be the mother I am. I am not perfect. I may not always be the person he wants me to be or even the person he needs at any given time. We will have our struggles as he grows from a boy to a teenager to a man.
Because of him, I will keep learning. I will keep loving.
Thank you, Nathan, for being the boy I needed to become the mother I am.
Mom, I love you. Happy Mother's Day.