I know more motherless daughters than I ever expected I would at my young age of 51. I know three mothers who have buried three adult children over the last three years. I know three daughters who are not mothers, yet now are mothering their aging mothers. I know several women, and one is too many, whose mothers did not fiercely protect them as children from grown men and their unforgivable behavior. I know a mother who has not talked to her daughter in decades. I know a daughter who has neither seen nor spoken to her mother in months. I know a few women whose mothers made terrible choices in the realms of finance and romance, for which these daughters now “pay the price” having made similar decisions themselves…failure by osmosis… I am none of those women.
My mothering story is different; my relationship with my daughter is its own experiment in what to do, and what not to do, what worked well and what did not work at all…my relationship with my mother, from the time I was a child, was the catalyst if you will, and Thursday night, as my daughter wandered over to chat as she often does, I realized what a funny thing it is to have things have all worked out so splendidly as they have, during a lifetime of things feeling like they are not likely to work out in any way I would wish at all…When you are a wife, a mother, and then a divorced single mother all before your 21st birthday, you have a lot of thoughts on your plate, bewilderment really, wondering how on earth this is all going to play out…I spent agonizing days, weeks, months, and years wishing for the peace and contentment, and love and family in which I grew up, for my own child…and realize now, all these decades later that I did in essence give that to her, simply by remaining close, both in heart and proximity, to my own family. Looking back, I’ve no regrets.
Despite what often felt like a lifetime of conflict, and oil & water efforts to mix, my mother and I have since found a nice rhythm and we get along very well. We have found a pattern of love and respect and a realization of HOW MUCH ALIKE WE ARE IN SO MANY WAYS, that it makes all of our differences, AND OH MY GOD THERE ARE DIFFERENCES, sort of blur in the background of the days of our lives. We still disagree on just about every political or societal topic there could be, so we make a choice to not speak about that which divides us. Instead we choose to talk about those things that bring us together; my dad, my daughter, her daughters, plants and flowers and our love of our yards, our love of home, my sister and her son, my boyfriend, my job…We have plenty to chat about and interestingly to me, although we spent decades not getting along as well as I wished, we now talk or text almost daily and seem to like each other very much. Maybe we are both better actresses than we think, but I like to think we have melded in a nice way now that I am middle aged and she is growing old. We have found our mother/daughter balance that I so hoped for. In all honesty I am grateful for my mother every day and she has never let me down. I know so many women who have been let down, time and time again by their mothers, but I am none of those women.
My daughter and I, although indeed had some rough patches over the years, have navigated our relationship to a point that I am grateful every day for her presence in my life. Every mother and daughter relationship has its good and bad times; I don’t know of one woman who does not have at least one story of a “bad time” or an event that defines that bad time. It is, so it seems, the natural order of things. I feel like every mother/daughter relationship has an opportunity to wither or to flourish and we each, mother or daughter, gets the opportunity to decide how to act and how to move forward or not. I often think about some of the women I have known or known of, who have made the choice to end their relationships with either their mothers or their daughters and for me, it is inconceivable; a life without my mother or my daughter. I am well aware that things can change in an instant: one of us could be without the others in a moment, yet another reason to give us this day to be grateful.
While my daughter’s daughters have become less and less attached to me over these years, I am more and more certain that building these houses right next door to each other was the best decision I ever could have made. My choice to be present for all of them during the years that they needed me is something that has changed my life for the better in ways I can’t even name. My mother was a tremendous help to me with my daughter and I have been a help to my daughter with hers…and now my mother and I, the crones, slowly retreat into the background while the mother and the maidens soar, grow, and experience their own evolution. Maidens, mothers, and crones; the circle of womanhood, all celebrated in one day of thanks to mothers, and those who perform the act of mothering…