I hear this once a day. The first time Declan said the “h” word, he didn’t like dinner. I’m not phased. If I were a regular mother, I’d have been crushed. Devastated, even. But I’m a teacher. Kids hate me all the time. I gave too much homework. Their grade sucks. They’re grounded “because of you.” There are a thousand reasons to hate me. My tolerance is pretty high.
But as a mom, it’s different. Hate is a powerful word. My son’s got a fiery temper. “I hate you! I wish you weren’t my mom!”
“Okay.” I say. I hand him a clothing catalog. “Pick a new one. Go to your room. I’m allergic to fresh behavior.”
He comes out in ten minutes. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I love you. I didn’t mean to say I hate you.” I give him a hug. “Do you forgive me?” I tell him I do, and I try to explain how saying mean things is never okay, and it’s fine to be angry without hurting people’s feelings. He agrees, until the next time I make an egregious error in parenting–say, by putting him to bed or refusing to give him candy…one time I even made the wrong shape pasta. Then, he hates me and stomps off to find a new mom once more.
I think of my own mom. She didn’t have a mom who was able to take care of her. She was in and out of foster homes and orphanages, until Aunt Tootie and Uncle Babe became her parents when she was a teen. She tells stories of how the nuns made her drink molasses for the iron. Neither one of us likes molasses.
I remember the times I was angry at my mom, too. Times when she was doing her best–when we didn’t have two dimes to rub together at the beginning of the school year, and she sharpened the best pencils for me. Everyone else had new supplies and I was mad at her because I didn’t. I remember when she cleaned out my room and took all the toys that had been littering the floor. When I got grounded and had to stay in my room, which was okay with me, because that’s where all the books were. When she made me eat liver. It’d be easy to blame my vegetarianism on the time she saved my dinner till the next morning, but that wouldn’t be completely honest. Avoiding dead animals muscles is entirely my choice.
My mom always did the best she could for us as we grew up. I remember when she was sick and couldn’t play or lift things. I didn’t know why. As an adult, I see that–three kids, worrying about finances, starting organizations and soup kitchens, doing God’s work, and living through the greatest recession in the universe takes its toll. Sometimes it takes a few decades and a new pair of glasses for kids to see things from the right perspective. I’ve lived a while, now, through business slumps, stresses in teaching, motherhood, the first trip to the hospital with my little boy, job insecurity and my generation’s recession.
It’s funny how everyone gets angry at their parents, makes teenage judgments, and stomps off into the world, only to realize we become those people when time visits. If we don’t become them we certainly understand them. Life’s never black and white. It throws curve balls. It puts pine tar on them. Parents do the best they can to try to get things right.
My mom grew up in the toughest of situations, yet she did everything she could to make life great for us. I appreciate how she made the holidays super special. She never had such things when she was small, so she wanted to make memories. As an adult, I recognize the effort it took to make every Christmas cookie, put up all the decorations, and start the traditions she created–so many meaningful ones I can’t keep up in the middle of the teaching year. I do the best I can.
She made her own nativity scene at ceramics before three kids took her away from her painting and drawing. I know the feeling–I’m cracking mine back out again, having determined for the first six years of motherhood that black permanent ink and children don’t mix. Taking time for oneself and children don’t mix. Moms push their own stuff to the side.
My mom went to college when I was in high school. At the time, I was proud of her but annoyed because she took over the bathroom I liked to mess up in the mornings. I’ve always been an early morning person. My routine was squashed. Then, she graduated, got two degrees, and finished up her career proud. She wanted to make something of herself, having been of that transitional generation that promoted and gave us the notion of gender equality but didn’t truly get it themselves. Those moms gave a lot so we, this generation, could think differently.
I look at my son, who gave me a thousand kisses and remembered it was Mother’s Day on his own. By four o’clock today, he’ll have hated me at least once, and by the time he turns sixteen, he’ll have tried to run away, hide from his family, and disown me several times. Then, he’ll ask me to pay for a car and college. It’s the cycle of life. And someday, he’ll come around and appreciate what I’ve done for him, I hope, if I’ve done my job correctly. He’ll appreciate me the way I appreciate my mom much more at 43 than 14 or 24. It’s how things go.
I’m going out to my garden. I laugh that I used to hold my nose as I cycled past farms growing up, now I want to grow my own food and be a farmer. Same thing with parenting. What we want to escape we become. In many ways I’ve become my mom. And that’s a good thing.