The wonder of a child is a beautiful thing. So vulnerable, so innocent.
In reflecting back on my own childhood, so much of who I am today was molded very early on by the relationship I have with my mother.
The way I mother my son, is driven by the desire to be the opposite of my own mother.
I distinctly remember numerous times as a six year old going to my mother as she stood at the stove cooking dinner. In my hand a book borrowed from the library. I was rebuffed. So many times I would go to her, each time with a different book, begging and pleading with my eyes for her to just sit and read with me. The response was always the same. “I don’t have time right now Catherine”. Those words remain with me until this day.
To be clear, I was a good kid. A really good kid. I was bright, intelligent and funny. I wanted nothing more than my parents to be proud of me.
My mother worked full time as a nurse. She had four kids, two boys and two girls. I was the youngest in the family. Four kids could only be exhausting, four kids and a full time job must have be exponentially harder. My mother could never drop me off for school or pick me up. The majority of my time in primary school was spent at the neighbor’s house in the mornings, and once school was over I went straight to after school care.
I watched other moms kiss their children goodbye in the mornings, while I walked to my classroom wishing my mother had been there too.
I watched my classmate’s moms drop off specially made birthday cakes at recess, wishing my mother could do the same.
I never looked up on sports days when I heard moms cheering from the sidelines, I knew if I did, it would not be my mother.
I would look for my mother when I received special awards during assembly, she was nowhere to be seen.
I have felt the absence of my mother’s attention for many years. It never got better, it never got worse, it just continued.
My mother was not affectionate, there were no loving hugs, no “I love you” at bed time and no afternoon cuddles. This was just not her way. I unconsciously accepted that affection and love just wasn’t the norm in our family. I continued to be a well behaved, bright intelligent student focusing on my work. Yet always craving attention. Good or bad. I just wanted to be noticed.
When I was 14 I rebelled. If my mother wouldn’t acknowledge my accomplishments, then maybe she would acknowledge my failures. I started smoking, skipping school. My grades dropped. I back talked, lied and snuck out of the house. I came home drunk after house parties. I got piercings. Yet my rebellious efforts went unnoticed. I wanted to be yelled at. I wanted to be grounded. I wanted some sort of structure and discipline. I wanted attention even if only for a second. Instead I got “I’m disappointed in you Catherine”.
After a few years of rebellion with no reactions, I matured enough to realize that I was only harming myself. No one else was suffering, just like no one else was noticing. I applied myself, I got good grades, I went to University. I got a job. I got a boyfriend. My life went on and I resigned myself to the fact that my relationship with my mother was just the way things were. I was consumed in making a life for myself and had developed some very strong emotional walls around myself.
Despite loving my mother, I also resented her. Throughout my adult years the relationship with my mother became one of frustration and anger. The older I got the angrier I became. The more I looked at her, the more weakness I saw. She was timid and frail. She would never stand up for herself, she was quiet spoken and seemed to never be able to think for herself or use any kind of initiative. She never tried new things, never socialized (other than with her own family) and had no hobbies. She had no drive or motivation to move out of her comfort zone.
Because of our incredibly different personalities and views on life we fought a lot. I never spoke to her about anything in my life unless I had to. I would encourage her to try new things, but she was severely depressed and lived in a world of negativity. She was unable to see the positive in anything. I attempted to help her, in many ways mothering my mother. All the while, wishing for a mother.
My mother may not have given me her undivided attention or shown any affection but my sister sure did. There was five years between us but we did everything together. We shared a room, we fought, we played, we danced and played dress up. My sister was there for me through every hard time, ready with advice, ready to listen to every vent. She was the one who would pull me into line. She would give me advice and guide me which direction to take. She was there to shop with, laugh with, cry with and fight with. In so many ways my sister gave me the love, attention and affection I craved from my mother.
When my sister became a mother I saw in her the type of mother I wanted to be. She gave undivided attention, affection and pure love to her child. When I became a mother and Tyler was in my arms I was struck with an overwhelming desire to protect and love him. In that moment I knew that showing him how much I love him would be the most natural thing in the world. I was not afraid of becoming my mother. I was adamant I would be the opposite.
Because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, I have been a single parent since Tyler was six weeks old. I know how tough it is to raise a child while trying to cope with the emotions and pressure of everyday life. My mother may not have been capable of giving me the attention I needed but I am emotionally capable and willing to give my son all he deserves and more.
Now that my mom is a Grandmother, we see a whole different side of her. She showers her grandchildren with the love and affection that my sister and I were desperate for in our childhood. We watch this in amazement and pleasure, both knowing that as mothers, we are different in every way. We are not our mother.