Saturday, November 27, 2010

Merry Christmas and I Hate You Mom

Okay, I know I’ve written a lot about my mother on this blog.

In short, she rocked.

I had a conversation with one of my oldest and dearest friends last week and she was saying how when we were growing up our friends loved my mother and were envious of how great our relationship was. This is a balm to my soul, because as you know, I only got to have her around for 18 years. My friends and their mothers got to develop rich adult relationships that are still evolving today.

My friend suggested that maybe my mother’s and my great relationship was a GIFT, since we wouldn’t have the chance to grow apart and then grow back together the way most of our friends and their mothers would. Makes sense, but there is more to the story.

Not 24 hours after that conversation, I found this lovely note I had written my mom. I’m guessing I was 12 or 13 in 8th grade. Please don’t confuse this with my first grade hate note (preserved in my mother’s jewelry box) or the 16-year-old’s diatribe when I go off on her for not buying me a car.

Good times.

Scrawled on notebook paper with permanent marker and poor spelling we have:

"You always feel the need to irratate (sp) and to fight and dampen people’s hopes. John will say, “Can I go here can I go here and of course you say “sure” me (double underline) no way and I wait all week for tonight and you have to either say I cant (sp) watch something because they want to watch something else or to start a fight over nothing!

And when I have a new room planned you say “sure” with till Jan—sure wait till Feb—What next? You put in a yellow rug without asking about all the hours I’ve spent planning and paint the woodwork your color and there go my plans… think about it!

You don’t delay (underline) to get John something for sports—talk about 2 pair of cleats in 2 weeks?? But when we do go shopping you act like were (sp) being mean if we don’t like something OR YOU SAY before I get a chance to comment you say: YOU HATE IT!!

You are a great mother but have a lot to learn to be a friend.

And for Christmas, sure you read my list…


Sheesh. There are a lot of directions we could go in when analyzing this letter. You may be wondering why you even read the blog of such an ungrateful wench. I know. Me too.

You may be pitying my mom who only got to live for 46 years on this earth, yet had to deal with this kind of shit with surprising regularity.

If you haven’t already unfollowed or de-friended me, let’s ask what can be gleaned from this letter.

That a caring mother surprised her daughter by installing new wall to wall yellow carpet (shag, even??) and spent hours painting the room for her, only to be berated for not consulting her daughter’s color palette (seafoam green and dusty rose, natch?)

That this daughter is so jealous of her siblings she even begrudges her brother’s necessary sports equipment purchases?

That a dateless, awkward, hormonal Friday night was “ruined” by the daughter not getting to watch Falcon Crest?

And as a mom myself who knows how much effort women put into making Christmas special, I can barely read the part about the Christmas list.


I share this letter for several reasons:

One is to tell you that even though I know I acted like a loser and I really miss my mom, this letter does not kill me. Why? Because of the kind of person she was. She wouldn’t want it to kill me. She would want me to get a grip and move on from a bad day, which is probably what ended up happening.

Another is a heads-up that THIS relationship, that looked enviable to outsiders, must have had its rocky points. Rocky points need not define or destroy a relationship.

Another is to help me brace myself for this kind of thing with my own kids. And if you have read the rest of this blog, you know I need to brace myself. While I’ve been typing this post my daughter tried to cut a tag off her shirt but cut a hole in the shirt instead. This was somehow my fault even though I never left this spot.

In dealing with my kids, I want to think about what my own response could be/can be.

This note helps me remember that how my kids feel about me on a given moment or day does not define my self worth. Neither does a note from the principal or a snippy remark from a friend, or my husband not wanting to discuss remodeling ideas.

It helps me remember that even though I said I hated her, I loved her. More than anyone or anything. I loved her so much that this insecure wreck of people pleaser and honor student felt safe enough to be a truly hateful and miserable wretch to her. Makes sense, right?

And her reaction, or lack thereof, made me feel even safer and more secure and even more wretched but less wretched at the same time.

You see, instead of telling me how this kind of behavior hurt her, lecturing me about respect, or withholding love, intimacy, or shag carpet, my mother let me get myself worked up into a lather.
This allowed me to keep the focus on ME, which hello, where does any self-loathing yet narcissistic 8th grader want the focus anyway? Before long I would cool down, stew, and realize what an idiot I was while my mother still maintained her dignity. Her lightly pursed lips, quiet humming, quizzical smile and perhaps a raised eyebrow were all it took for me to realize I was an idiot and my mom was still my mom.

I’m sure the “perfect” relationship my friends envisioned wasn’t perfect from either of our perspectives. But you’ve probably already read about how my mother and I think/thought perfection was overrated.

What was special, or notable, was a mom who was a great mom, who loved this ingrate unconditionally, who didn’t stoop to my level, and who did not try too hard to be a “friend” to someone who had plenty of friends, but only one mom.

I guess that’s what I get from this letter.


Ellen aka Ellie said...

Two weeks ago, my friend Vicki accepted Christ. That was at 9:30 on a Sunday night. At 1:00 that Monday morning, she died--a week before her 25th birthday and 3.5 years into her fight with leukemia.

I've written about her amazing boyfriend, but I need to tell you, her mom was incredible with her too.

And Vic took a lot out on her mom. As a teen and then while sick. But she also told me how wonderful her mom was, how much she loved her. And I promised Vic I'd stay friends with her mom until we're all together again.

The point? Helen, Mom, would laugh now telling you of Vicki's snarky moments. She got them when Vic was a teen, and she got them when they were both weary from the damage of the disease.

But she doesn't remember any hate, she only remembers love.

I just got back from Hallmark where I bought an ornament for Helen. It says, "mother and daughter, friends of the heart."

Just like you and your mom. And friends forgive just about everything. And moms? We forgive it all.

mosey (kim) said...

This is a wonderful tribute not only to your Mom but to motherhood in general. I feel sad that you lost her so early, but glad that you were old enough to glean such love and wisdom from her.

It gives me hope that I'll make it through the teenage years since my sweet little 7 year old, responding to a comment from me the other day said "You're weird, Mumma." Yep, but I love ya!

Mrs4444 said...

This is really sweet. It's a good thing my mom doesn't remember how much I resented her, back in the day, for causing all of my problems!

Brenda Susan said...

What a wonderful way to react to your old letter. To realize that though you may be on the receiving end of letters like that in the future, you know your kids love you as you loved your mom. Beautiful!

L said...

Ah, to maintain my dignity. Not my forte, but certainly one of Mom's. I am a little surprised I didn't end up under the bus in your letter! I am going to reread for some more parenting pointers right now. Love you!

Catsngrams said...

I found your post so wonderful. I lost my mother 21 years ago and to this day I keep thinking of the "if only's" that I had done for her. But as you say all mothers love to matter what. And we just keep on loving. I love being a mother. That letter is so normal for daughters. Not until you are a mother yourself can you really appreciate your mother.

Ali said...

My Mother is mentally ill and made my childhood a living hell (ok and is still trying) and I am so envious of my friends that got good one. What I wouldn't give for 18 years of amazing compared to 37 years of hell and misery.

She is clearly so very active in your memory and life, and I am so glad you have that!


Gretchen said...

Your mom was one of a kind. Really.

And I don't know if I'm blind... I didn't see where you said you hated her in the note. I know you probably felt that but I didn't see it in your writing. You're lucky to have a mom who understood you so well.

Cynthia said...

Loved your mom.
Love that she continues to teach us & model for us! Thank you for sharing her!
Old & dear

Christy said...

What a wonderful post Anna. It made me tear up and fervently hope my daughter adores me this way when she's older...I strive to be the kind of mom she was, and you clearly are!

kim jackson said...

i loved your mom and i love you. :]

Nichole@40daysof said...

Love this post. Brings back so many of my own memories. My mom wouldn't let me watch Falcon Crest either. ;)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Anna.

Thank you.


for a different kind of girl said...

Such a beautiful post. A few years ago, I found myself in a situation that plunged me into dark, horrible moods. My mom was the first person to step in and did everything in her power to pull me out of them, and then continued to protect me in a way only a mother can. It's amazing the capacity for love our mothers (and us, in turn) can have for our children even when we're sitting back and taking their drama, and goodness knows, I gave that woman some drama!

dearheart said...

This was a fantastic post, Anna. The meaning you derived from it provides a lot of lessons for the rest of us.

The letter's lesson about how your kids (or anyone else) feels about you on a given moment does not "define your self worth" (or your mom's) is powerful.

You're right too, that your mom made you feel so safe that you were able to express emotions to her that no one else saw. That is one loving mother. One we all hope to be.

Momastery said...

Anna, beautiful.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

"who did not try too hard to be a “friend” to someone who had plenty of friends, but only one mom." - That's something that all moms should think about. This was beautiful Anna.

(And where do you find this stuff?!)

Heidi said...

This is really, truly beautiful. I read this a few days ago, but I was sick and I knew I needed to come back to give this post another read. :)

It all rang so true for me...every word of this.

Anonymous said...

This makes me weepy... in a good way.

There are so many days that I wonder what I have done wrong... when my teenage daughters launch into verbal tirades on topics I could absolutely never have predicted. Just yesterday I took a proverbial beating because there was no interior door in the school building to get to an after school event... and she had to walk OUTside, in the cold, around the building. Really?! Because it seemed apparent that I could not possibly fix that situation, I endeavored to explain the possible reasons for which 'they' did not build or open such a door.... The conversation took a few detours through bad neighborhoods before it ended with her yelling, "You don't understand me!! If you DID, you would AGREE with me!!!!!!"

Thanks so much for the reminder that teenagers are teenagers. And that I can allow my girls to be a teens... with all the usual baggage & bungles & mood swings... guiding them to adulthood with love and pursed lips. If I am fortunate, they will be as wonderful as you.

Thank you for making my day.

Unknown said...

Reading this letter makes me like you more somehow. :-)

And yes, your mama was great (double underline)