We had differences, particularly in perspective. One of the main differences between us was our attitude to forgiveness.
For some reason, although I've always been extremely sensitive to emotional hurt, I've been consistently forgiving toward whomever instigates it. I guess I'm so aware of my own shortcomings that I find it too much to hold a grudge against someone else for theirs. Instead, I seem to have a habit of putting myself in the other person's position and am able to identify, even if only a little, with their point of view. Some might say I make excuses for other people; I like to think I have a measure of empathy.
Not so my mother.
I wouldn't say my mother was vengeful or spiteful, but she could hold a grudge, particularly if someone hurt or treated badly one of her own. I remember as a young teen I had a part time job at a local store, and when I was let go because the owners didn't want to take the time to train me, my mother felt I was unjustly treated and vowed never to go back to that store. As far as I know, she never did.
So when we had a falling out ourselves twenty-five years ago, there was a lot of shouting and accusation on her part, and there never was full reconciliation. She died with bitter words on her lips, though she arranged that a beautiful letter she wrote be posted to me posthumously, one that I will treasure forever.
Why do mothers and daughters have issues? I hold no expectation that our relationship was unique. In fact, I wonder if it isn't more unique to see mother/daughter relationships that have grown into friendship as the child grows into a woman. Mothers pour so much into their children and yet so often mothers and daughters have a lot of friction between them.
I think the key is expectation.
I watched my sister experience my mother's nagging and criticism, for homework not done or a lazy attitude. My sister was very brainy without lifting a textbook. My sister was the elder, and so my mother heaped expectation and responsibility upon her that she didn't put upon me. And yet, my sister and my mother ended up to be much closer than my mother and I. I think what lay the foundation was that I was oblivious to expectation, whereas my sister was fully aware of it and, though passive-aggressive, she was ultimately compliant.
I believe mothers have a right to expect of their children obedience, respect and honour. I believe daughters have the need to be seen as separate entities from their mothers. And in a struggle for authority on the one hand and independence on the other, mothers and daughters might have a hard time finding a healthy balance in their relationship.
But it is possible. Fast forward to adulthood. When we can be vulnerable with one another, and honest, then there is room for rebuilding.
I remember once my mother was hurt and upset about someone or something external to our relationship. I offered to comfort her, but she said, "No, you are the daughter and I am the mother." How sad. I was a young adult and yet she could not allow herself to receive compassion from me.
When there is pride or bitterness or a lack of forgiveness within, there is a hardness of heart that affects our entire being. Ultimately, doesn't it affect every relationship, putting us out of reach of love and gentleness?
I was not an easy daughter and in hindsight, I wish I had been. Now as a mother myself, I find it easy to forgive my mother for her flaws and mistakes as I make so many myself. But when I consider friends and relatives, some of whom have great family relationships and others not so much, I think the one thing I see in common with the healthier relationships is acceptance and forgiveness.
The last time I saw my mother, she was full of cancer and was not happy to see me. She poured out her disappointment toward me; I saw, for the first time, her competitiveness, her sarcasm and her criticism of me as I'd been growing up. I'm no hero, but in spite of her hostility toward me, I managed to keep cool and say to her repeatedly that I loved her. She couldn't receive it at the time but perhaps it struck a chord. A few weeks after her death, I received a letter wishing me the best life would have to offer.
There is no way of knowing how we will end our days. We can choose to make the most of the ones we have. For me, a key to achieving that is by loving, apologizing and forgiving.
Until next week... I hope all of your relationships will be full of honestly, courage and acceptance.
|Mom with Grandson by Sarah Tun|