Growing into our mothers

To all of the mothers who inspired me, taught me, consoled me and listened to me; to the mothers who want to be, who’ve experienced loss, and who relish every day with their children: take a moment today to celebrate your accomplishments as a parent. We so often focus on our little failures and our big failures. Let’s change that today. Let’s concentrate on those small acts of grace our children perform that take our breath away, those moments where a lesson we worked hard for shines as we watch our child grow. Let’s apply our collective lessons – those hard won moments of learning and understanding as we realize the limitations of what we can accomplish as parents, and the astronomical heights of what we can accomplish as parents. So often, Mother’s Day is about other people celebrating our role. This year and moving forward, let’s also own our achievements.

I was talking to a friend the other day about growing into our mothers. I don’t mean becoming our mothers, which is a whole different conversation! I am talking about the concept of daddy’s little girl versus mama’s little man. As women raised by women, it’s our mothers’ energy we feel the most and work against for most of our childhoods. She sets the rules, telling us what to eat, what to wear, and all kinds of other things. She teaches us how to become a woman when we grow out of being a girl. She shows us what womanhood she chose for herself, and the great mothers also show us other versions of strong women, which gives us choices as we make our own decisions.

As teenagers, most of us rebelled against our mothers. In order to become strong, independent individuals, we push back against figures of authority. Who has more authority on womanhood than the person who got there before us and most represents adulthood to us? So we push back. We reject and we judge.

That phase can last a short while or a long while. In the end, most women realize how much their mothers have given them. For me, this took place when I was on my own for the first time in my university apartment. The shock of realizing how much my mother had been doing that I was unaware of blew my mind. It didn’t end there. As I grew and changed and my life changed with me, I kept stumbling upon moments and realizations about how much impact my mom has had on who I am.

When I became a mother myself, the other shoe dropped. How did my mother make all of these decisions about parenting, schools, clothes, playmates, etc.? How on earth am I supposed to make these decisions that will shape a young woman? How did she make it look so manageable?!

My mother’s value grows as I age. My respect for her and what she has accomplished as a mother and a person is magnified every time I make a decision as an adult and as a parent. Yes – I am also becoming my mother. I hear things leaving my mouth and turn to see if she’s behind me! Those moments are funny and they make me smile.

More importantly, I’m growing into a strong relationship with her as I better understand what she has gone through. This woman who was the boss of me and became an enemy of my independence (in my mind), is now one of my greatest confidantes and advisors. The rose-colored glasses are off. Our relationship is not without its complications. Eye rolling and shouting is still part of our communication structure, the same way it was when I was 16. Still, in my moments of panic and change, I always find myself turning to her for comfort, truth and a soft spot to land.

So I am a daddy’s girl and my mother’s daughter. She and I sound alike, the way Tess already mimics the way I speak and laugh. Motherhood is not only in the blood; it’s in the relationship. As I spoke to my friend, contemplating her future motherhood, I reflected on how far each of us come in our relationship with our parents. The relationship between two women will always be complex, whether mother and daughter or friendship. The good ones will always grow into something more. Thank you to my mom for teaching me that, and showing me that with all of the strong women she brought into my life as her friends. I hope Tess sees me the way I see her someday.

And to the mothers who made me a mother? I have no ability to thank you enough. Realize you are my heroes for a lifetime. Thank you.

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