Once social media falls in love with a holiday, the variations of wishes can drown you. And social media loves Mother’s Day. And not just Mothers, but Bonus Moms, Grandmothers, Great-Grand Mothers, and those who acted like Mom when mom could not. I’m glad for the love and the gratitude in the hearts of those who had great moms.
But maybe your childhood was not the kind that brings images of flowers and dappled ponies. Or your adulthood, either.
Maybe you never had the mother you needed. The one who comforted you and praised you and loved you when you were unlovable and helped without anger when you sewed the pieces of your gingham skirt together backwards. Twice.
Maybe you chose not to be a mother and everyone asks you why, or you wanted to be a mother and it didn’t happen for you and you are still pretending that’s just fine.
It’s complicated. Whether your mother was cruel or uncaring or clueless, the pain is there. If your mother is still alive, you probably won’t be able to have the big sudden whoosh! of understanding pouring into a happy ending, like your friends keep promising you. It may never happen. Not even on your mother’s deathbed. And that may have to be OK, too.
If your mother is dead, you may replay scenes, wondering if you had acted differently, if the results would have been different. You’ll never know, but a wild guess tells me No. Some things can’t be changed, fixed, or healed. And never by one person. Two people, a mother and her child, might be able to cobble together a relationship, but it’s hard.
The relationship between mothers and daughters is always hard. There is unwritten jealousy between age and experience and youth and naivete. There is anger in lost opportunities and unmet expectations. For some, the fact that you were a daughter was enough of a disappointment to fill a lifetime. I ran across this quote yesterday, whose poignancy was hard to read:
“Remember that every son had a mother whose beloved son he was, and every woman had a mother whose beloved son she wasn’t. ” – Marge Piercy
But here is a truth you might want to hear right now, today, on Mother’s Day. You cannot be anyone else except the person you are today, with all your faults, experiences, hardships, joys, stumbles, successes, talents, glories and backslides. That is also true of your mother. No matter what happened, your awareness and work brought you to where you are today.
And starting today, you can choose to be generous and kind and patient. Maybe not with your mother, but with the women who surround you. The ones who work with you and don’t meet your expectations. The pretty ones who get promoted ahead of you. The ones who don’t take the opportunities you wanted and they have the freedom to turn down. All those women you meet on your path during the day. You can swallow the angry remark. You can wish them well. You can choose not to judge. That is your choice now. And choosing that freedom instead of choosing retribution is worth celebrating. Today and every day.
—-Quinn McDonald’s mother has been dead for almost 15 years, and the shadow still falls across the path on some days.