Friday, January 27, 2012
A Mother's Anguish
It played out like every stereotype, when it comes to raising a teenage daughter. Even though mine just celebrated the birthday that ushered her into her 20s, the emotions and issues linger. The reason for the falling out isn’t really important. Misunderstandings, hurtful things said, many, many tears. None of it life and death. All of it breaking my heart.
It made me crave a good, deep weeping session. But we’re living in very tight quarters now, and there is just no place to go, at 10 o’clock at night, when one needs to get away. I have an 11 year old, who is very tender hearted, and internalizes everyone else’s stress, to get to bed. Hopefully in peace. Right now he’s even sleeping in the same room as I am, so there was no ‘crying myself to sleep’ to be had.
I go into the bathroom, run the water, and try to quiet the sobs that want to erupt from my core. This girl I adore, my one and only daughter, has the power to cause me such anguish. I’d poured my mothering heart out to her and been stabbed in the back in return.
My patient and wise hubby brushes back my hair and reminds me that she’s going through a tough time herself. Her life is in huge upheaval with no certain landing pad. She acts out of grief and fear herself, so we need to just be patient and love her through this.
He’s right. I know he is. All I can manage is a weary shake of my head, to let him know I hear him, through the tears that run down my face. Then I head off to bed, knowing the sunlight in the morning will help resolve this painful mess.
I settle in next to my baby boy, who is quietly reading his chapter book. I turn to face the wall and pop in my ear buds. Jim Croce is cued up on my phone and I am comforted by his melodies. These are the songs I went to sleep to when I was a fifth grader myself. These are the songs that make my blood pressure go down, in stressful times, because they remind me of childhood. They remind me of my mom, who loved her Jim Croce and his Bad Bad Leroy Brown, even though they didn’t exactly fit into the strict Baptist lifestyle she embraced.
Just as the tears seem to be drying, a fresh batch erupts. It’s times like these that I desperately miss my mom. She’s been gone for 18 years, and I still miss her mothering. I lay on my wet pillow and try to fight the longing, but it does little good.
So I play the logic game. If she were alive today I wouldn’t have necessarily called her when this night turned so sour. That’s not the relationship we had. Or at least that’s not the relationship we were beginning to have, as I had just begun to be a mother in the years before she died.
Instead, I would plow through the hard day, then spill all my frustration out to her, days later, when we’d finally meet up. She’d sympathize, then laugh, as she remembered her own trying days as a new mom. And her laugh would heal me. It reminded me that life went on. New days meant new tries and maybe new frustrations, but always new hope.
And I also realize that I have no idea how she would have reacted to this latest trial with my all-grown-up girl. I don’t have the years between to tell me how our relationship would have evolved and changed. This girl, who I know she would have adored, grew up without that doting grandma, who would have grown and changed with her. They didn’t have the preschool or elementary school years, to get to know each other.
My mom never got to encourage my girl, when she got braces, that she looked beautiful despite the metal in her mouth. And she never got to gush with pride as the braces came off to reveal a suddenly older young lady. She didn’t sit in the bleachers with us, as our girl marched across the stage, long blonde hair falling out of her bright blue graduation cap.
My mom doesn’t know my daughter. That’s a hard pill to swallow. I yearn for her comfort, her guidance in our latest speed bump. But I have no guide wire, no indication as to how it would all play out, if she were still here. She knows nothing of this grown up girl, nothing of our life.
And that fact makes me even more sad. So I do the next logical thing. I text my oldest sister. She’s four states and one time zone away, but thank goodness she replies. She’s the mother to three daughters. One of them was 12 weeks away from being born when we lost our mother. This sister understands my grief, and my anguish, and my occasional frustrations with raising my girl.
She needs no details of the events that led to my text. She just senses my sadness and says the exact right, encouraging words. She reminds me that it’s temporary. This spell will pass, and some day, we will see the fruits of our labor. Not today. But some day.
Fresh tears come, with her compassion. I sense the comfort that my mom used to provide, coming through the device I hold in my hand, a bit of technology that didn’t exist in the days when my mom was still here. We don’t have to call each other anymore, to ‘be there’. A simple text can sometimes do the trick.
And it does. A few tender volleys of words I needed so badly to hear, and I’m able to relax and drift off to sleep. This mothering thing is so complicated. It’s wrapped up in our own mothers, and the mothers that our sisters are to their children.
It’s a network I’ve yet to figure out, but has saved me more than this once.
It’s now a new day. Time for new starts. Time for a chat with my girl, to sort out the mess from last night. Time to build our relationship with one more brick of experience. I find myself hoping that some day, a few decades from now, I can be on the other end, when my girl is in tears, brought on by her own baby girl, and once again the tables are turned.
I want to be there, through text, or skype, or phone call, to remind her that it’s all just a part of mothering.