I Got It!

I’ve been thinking a lot, as you know, about the relationship I have with my mom, and recently I had a new revelation.

The revelation came after a recent interaction with her.

I’m not going to get into all the details of what was said, or what happened.  I’d rather not bring it up if I don’t have to.

But I would like to fill you in on what I came up with after trying to understand what had happened.

I’ve always said, ever since the the birth of my first son, that I just didn’t feel like I had that “Mom” gene all my friends seemed to have.

My friends all seemed to have had a desire to be a mom. They loved babies even when they were stinky and messy. They enjoyed playing with their kids and didn’t seem to care if their house was in shambles. They were creative with meal time, cutting sandwiches into hearts and pancakes had smiley faces.

Okay, I know not all of my friends did this or at least not all the time but I’ve always felt I was different. I always felt like something was wrong with me. 

That something was just missing. I didn’t know what I was doing and my kids were going to suffer because of it. They were going to have a disadvantage because of it, and I felt remorse for it, even before any evidence was collected to show it.

But the revelation that recently came to me and I feel is SO important that I need to share it with everyone, is…

MAYBE THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME!

Maybe, just maybe, it was my mom who was born without the “Mom” gene I felt I’ve been missing.

In fact not only does my mom not have the “Mom”gene but that I REALLY DO HAVE IT! I just didn’t know what it looked like or how it worked.

But that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me. I was born with that instinct moms have for their kids. I just didn’t know how to express it.

I love my kids. There’s nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for them. I would never intentionally hurt them. I would never take from them. My life’s desire is to push them into being the best people they can be.

THAT’S THE “MOM” GENE!

It’s true, some moms don’t have it. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not me. And my kids are not at a disadvantage because of it.

So now when I have to interact with her I don’t need to go into the relationship wondering, “What’s wrong with me, that she treat me like this?” But instead, “It’s not that there is something wrong with me, but that there’s something missing in her.”

Oh my gosh, all these years of feeling like a bad daughter. Feeling like I deserve to be treated badly, because why else would she treat me so badly. Of feeling insignificant. Always trying to impress her. Always looking to be her beloved. Wanting to be worthy, worthy of a mother’s love.

I get it now!

Actually, I’ve always had it!

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A Lesson From Mom

There are just some things in life you have to do that you don’t want to.

My mom taught me that. There were several things as a child I was forced to do. I didn’t want to expose my breasts to the neighbors. I didn’t want to lift my nightgown, to show everyone who entered our house, that I ONLY had two chicken poxes on my back.

But I had to.

That and more pretty much messed me up. What I learned is I didn’t have a say. Often as children, we don’t.

Or do we?

I really don’t know. For me, I didn’t. My mom was the puppet master. I was the puppet. I didn’t like upsetting my mom. She was often upset as it was. I didn’t want to be the cause of anything more.

So, I was stuck between wanting to make my mom happy, and not doing what I didn’t want to.

Now I can’t say my kids get away with EVERYTHING, but they do get away with a lot. It’s hard for me not to make them do things they don’t want. I understand the importance of it, but it’s still hard.

Sometimes, it’s just not a battle I want to fight. Like whether they want to keep their shoes on at 15 months. I really don’t care. They’re not walking around outside, unless they are and then they do. But if I’m carrying them from their car seat to the doctor’s office, I’m not going to fuss over it, when I’m just happy we got there on time.

I don’t care if their clothes match. They are old enough to dress themselves. If they don’t want to search for a shirt that matches their shorts. That’s on them. I don’t care.

I will make sure they brush their teeth, but I don’t care if they don’t brush their hair. I just don’t. Once they hit a certain age, their appearance is not a reflection of who I am.

But I truly do understand the importance of learning and teaching there are somethings you just have to do, whether you want to or not.

Like doing chores. Taking baths. Doing homework.

Growing up, myself, I learned a couple of coping skills my kids are probably not learning. Well, not very well.

  1. Don’t think so much.

As a child, I really had no idea when I was going to go do something I didn’t want to do. So, I really COULDN’T think too much about it anyway. At any time, my mom could, and would tell me to do something…and I would. Of course, then I would have to convince myself everything was ok. That’s not weird. It’s not wrong, my mom told me to do it. I don’t want to upset my mom.

So, this brings me to my second coping skill.

  1. Instead, think tomorrow, at this time, it will be better.

That’s what you think about when you’re doing something you’re not thinking so much about.

  • This is temporary. It will end. Tomorrow, at this time, you won’t be doing this. It will pass.

Not to be confused with, I won’t be doing this again; because that’s not true.

I just don’t think too much about that, well not right now, anyway.

As soon as this is over, my days and nights will be consumed with those thoughts, but not right now. Not in the middle of the act.

Right now, I’m just going to shut down mentally, do what I’m told to do, and think tomorrow will be better.

So yeah, what a mess I became. I’m still trying to understand how all that impacted who I have become and how not to pass that on to my kids.

But I’ve been challenged to think about the good that my mom as done for me. So today, as I sit at my bathroom vanity, starting my morning rituals, and contemplating all the things that I don’t necessarily want to do, but need to do so I can do what I want to do, I think about what my mom has taught me.

Don’t think so hard. Just do what you have to do. Shower, hair, makeup, pack a lunch, go to the gym.

And… (with a slight modification) so then after, things will be better because then I can do what I want.

I mean really, these are great coping skills. Life skills really.

First, don’t think so much about what needs to get done. Just do it. Secondly, remember its only temporary. The faster you get it done, the sooner you can have fun.

And these don’t have to only pertain to everyday mundane stuff, either.

Its helped me step outside my comfort zone too. I really wanted to meet my neighbors because relationships are godly, but I really didn’t want to go knocking on every neighbor’s door to invite them to a block party.

But I didn’t think so hard about it.

I made the invitations. (This step was easy to get stuck in since the longer it took to do this, the more time I had before I had to do something I didn’t want which was…) then start at the end house and knock on each door, up and down the street.

At each door I had a goal. Get their name. So, it sucked. I hate small talk, but I did it and if I got their name, it was a bonus! I can tell you it takes roughly an hour to knock, talk and deliver an invitation to everyone on my block. Oh my gosh, it’s still hard for me. It is one of my least favorite things to do. But I do it because why?

Well, sometimes they come to our parties. Sometimes they don’t, but like my second skill states, something better is coming! They still wave at me as I drive down the street. Or they will say, good morning Kim, as I walk. I still get relationships from it.

So, its God who motivates me to want to step outside my comfort zone, but it’s my mom who has taught me how to do it.

Could she have taught me a different way? Well hopefully because I would like my kids to learn the same lesson, but I don’t want to teach them the same way.

But I have to make peace within myself that she still taught me. She did good. We all have our experiences to overcome. Some experiences are harder to survive.

Growing up, I truly believed childhood was not something you lived. It’s something you survived.

My mom didn’t survive her childhood. Physically, yes, but mentally she didn’t. She wasn’t trying to teach me to survive because she didn’t know how. I learned it from her anyway. I’m grateful for that, because even though she’s mentally still stuck back there in her childhood, abandoned and alone, I was able to pull through so that I can hopefully teach my kids the same lesson, but in a different way.

I’m not teaching them how to survive. I’m teaching them how to live.

So, I’m going to go cry now.

Thank you listening.

Birthday Revelation

It seems completely fitting to be starting this journal about my mother today of all days. Today is her birthday.

Earlier today I was standing in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store, trying to buy her a birthday card, and trying not to fall apart. It wasn’t until I picked up the first card, and started to read it that I remembered how much I hated to do this.

My mom had asked earlier, if on her birthday, my brother and I could take her out for dinner. My brother hasn’t answered her phone calls in years, so it was up to me to organize it. There wasn’t a whole lot to organize but to make sure I picked her up and brought my kids.

The kids were waiting for me in the car, as I told them I was just going to run in to grab a card and some flowers. So here I was, picking up card after card, expressing such love and admiration for a woman who daily rose above all expectations, to be the world’s best mom.

What was supposed to take me a minute to grab a card took several, as I tried to hold back the tears.  That’s not true. That’s not true. Each card I picked up I put back down. Each being a reminder of what I didn’t have in a mom.

After finally finding one that wasn’t all touchy-feelily, I decided to grab one for the kids to give to her too.  Again, I was reminded, she’s not the typical grandma either. A feeling was stirring deeply inside. But what is this feeling? And why?

I grab a vase of flowers, and headed for the checkout line.

In the car, I try to wipe the tears behind my sunglasses before my kids notice. I don’t want my feelings to put a damper on their time with their grandma. But the more I try to understand why I’m upset, the more the tears fall.

It’s obvious to me my mom’s love language is Quality Time. Every time I talk to her she reminds me how lonely she is. It doesn’t matter that there are probably over 400 people who live in the same assisted living facility as her.

I think back to my childhood. The one where my brother and I were frequently left alone. But because I was so young I question if I’m remembering it right. Sure, she left us alone but maybe I’m just forgetting about the quality time we did have.

But then I think of when I was a teenager. I was pretty self-sufficient. I didn’t need her to baby me anymore, but I still needed my mother. She worked as a waitress and spent a lot of time after hours with her co-workers. Some who were the same age as me. I remember very clearly being jealous of those other girls who got to spend time with my mom. They were always going out together, while I was left at home.

Then in college, my mom had since left my dad and remarried. I was invited to come over, and I did often. Every day in fact, but I also remember every time the phone rang, she was done with me. She would spend hours on the phone as I sat patiently waiting for her to get off. I remember joking I was going to have to leave and call her, if I wanted her attention.

But the funny thing was, whenever she was sad, not just sad, but whenever she was depressed, her husband would tell her, “Call Kim. She’ll make you feel better.” And I always did. I loved making my mom feel better. It made me feel special. It made me feel loved.

But today as I drove my family over to pick her up for her birthday dinner, I remembered how Quality Time is her love language and all those times she didn’t want to spend any of it on me. That is, until she had no one else to spend her time with. Then she did. Then she needed me to make her feel loved.

So here I am years later, with a family of my own, bitter because I feel when I should have been getting the firsts of her love, I was always given what was left.

And that’s exactly how I feel right now. I’m getting her leftovers. She has pushed everyone she has loved away. No one else is left. Not even my brother. And the hour she had with him during her birthday dinner, meant the world to her, and I got what was left.

But I guess that’s my own fault. See, I’m not the prodigal son. I’m not the one who left. I’m the one who’s always been there, resenting the fatten calf she always pulls out when he’s around.

Always feeling second best. Not worthy of anything else.

I try to convince myself she loves me, she just can’t show me. When she speaks love to me with Quality Time, it just feels fake. I just feel used.