Sunday, May 13, 2012

These are the Moms of My Life

I am a mom.  To be specific, I am a Boymom.  Mom of two boys.  And it is absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, trying to be a great mother so I can teach these two amazing kids how to be the best men they can be. 

Had anyone told me when I was 20 that I would relish this role, I would have called them a crack smoker.  But honestly?  I can't imagine doing anything different with my life. 

So while I take a few minutes to prepare for the onslaught of effort that will be made on my behalf to make Mother's Day a special day for me (from church programs sang by fidgety kids to funny, little handmade gifts and a burnt toast breakfast), I want to take a minute to smother the mothers I have in my life with oodles of love and appreciation.

Some of you know my life history.  Life's circumstances meant I lived in a few different homes growing up, so I have had the blessing of having more than one motherly figure in my life.  I want to take a minute to honor them all.

My "foster" mom is an amazing woman who opened her heart and her home to welcome my sister and me when we needed somewhere to go for a a few months because my mother's work took her out of town before our high school year ended.  D and her husband gave us a room and a family and a home life that we had not experienced before. 

I didn't appreciate how difficult it must have been for D to take on two more kids when she already had her own family.  I also didnt appreciate how much work she did to keep her family going.  D worked full-time outside of the home, then came home everyday to cook dinner and do laundry and assign chores and keep the house running.  

We didn't have a lot of heart to heart talks while I lived there because I was struggling with my own issues and didn't always see the wisdom of her ways.  Honestly, I wasn't sure she even liked me.  I didn't think she hated me, I just didn't think she cared one way or the other about me.  So it didn't seem like I'd be missing much when I decided to leave home and live on my own at 17 years of age.  I quit going to D's house and disappeared into the world to try to get away from my past. 

Imagine my surprise and amazement that D was one of the first people to welcome me home when I finally decided to quit running.  There was this wonderful woman, who had, unbeknownst to me, worked so hard those first few years that we lived there to be an example and model of what a mother should be.  She wasn't worried about being my best friend, she was more concerned with teaching me how to become a good woman, a loving wife and a successful mother.  And I was so busy rebelling and hurting that I missed it when I needed it the most. 

But D is a kind and forgiving mother who received me with open arms and unconditional love.  She has become one of my best friends.  I turn to her and her husband often for advice and they continue to include us in family events and offer us support as if we are still part of their clan.  Her faith in God and devotion to her own children and grandchildren continues to inspire me to work hard to create the kind of loving, eternal relationships that will always exist in her family.

My dad's sister K is an amazing woman.  My husband calls her "Mom to the World."  Her capacity to love is bottomless and she is one of the most non-judgemental, kind people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. 

We went to live with K when I was about 10 or 11 and we stayed with them for 4 years, while my Dad was supposedly getting his collective crap together.  Life at K's house was normal, which was a good thing for us.  We hadn't experienced normal up until then, so it was nice to relax and feel safe where we lived. 

K went out of her way to make sure we felt loved and appreciated and did it with very little help from her husband (who was an OTR truck driver who was hardly ever home) and very little monetary support from my dad.  It wasn't easy for her or for us on many levels.  She took care of 6 kids everyday.  She was up before us every morning with breakfast on the table and made sure we ate dinner as a family every night. 

Looking back I can see now that we were pretty poor.  There was very little money for anything other than basic necessities, but K always managed to find a way to make sure we had what we needed.  Best of all, she treated us like she treated her own kids.  She made us her own while we were under her care and we never felt like we didn't belong.  I love K.  K is a caretaker in every sense of the word.  She nutures and loves and gives with all of her heart to anyone who needs to feel the healing powers that love creates.  She truly is "Mom to the World."

Finally, I want to send a giant cyber hug to my biological mom.  My mom had a rough start in life herself.  She was forced to leave home at a very young age when her father had an emotional breakdown and became physically abusive.  She had no support from my grandmother, who I suppose was scared for her own life at that point and my mom ended up becoming a teenage mother at the age of 17.  She did her best to make things work with my dad, but in the end I think lack of maturity and support led to their divorce.  I was 5 yrs old at the time and didn't see my mom again until I was 10 or 11 years old. 

I used to wonder why she didn't try harder to get custody of us.  A few years ago I ran across some letters she wrote to my dad right after they split up.   She was asking to spend some time with us.  She had tried on more than one occasion to see us, but it seems my stepmother wouldn't allow it.  That was a big moment for me.  I started to realize that some of my resentment and frustration about her not being there for us was probably misplaced.  Suddenly she was not as much of an uncaring mother as I thought she was and I had to kind of adjust my thought process regarding her departure.

We spent a few summers with her when I turned 10 or 11 and then when I turned 15 she decided she wanted custody, so we left my Aunt's house and went to live with my mom.  I won't lie.  It was a tough transistion.  My mom hadn't been around kids or raised kids before and she wans't used to having to share her time or space with two teenage girls.  We had no real previous relationship with her and it wasn't easy to create one, for any of us.  

I try not to blame anyone for how things went down, my mom and I were victims of a lot of bad circumstances.  What I realize now is that for all of the hard times we had with each other, trying to figure out how to live together and bond, I know deep down my mother really cared about me.  She just didn't communicate that very well, or at least the way that I needed to hear it. 

The fact is, as I look back, I can see she was doing her best to show me she cared by trying to help me become a self-sufficient, competent, hard-working person.  I didn't always appreciate how hard it must have been for her to overcome her upbringing (or lack of) enough to try to share herself with two girls who really would rather not have moved in with her in the first place.  I wonder if she laid there at night sometimes thinking that she'd made a huge mistake.  It didn't help that she worked 7 days a week and didn't have a lot of time to help us acclimate to our new surroundings.  We didn't know to ask for what we needed and she didn't understand how badly we were struggling.

I ended up going my own way and trying to create the kind of life I wanted, but always at some point in my travels, I ended up back at home, close to my mom.  Because I really didn't know what else to do.  Something in my heart just wouldn't let me give up on trying to figure out how to love and be loved back by the woman who brought me into this world. 

There's so much more to this story, but the bottom line is this:  because I am a mother myself, I am finally able to see things from a different point of view when it comes to my mother.  She is no longer the person who left me, who wouldn't take the time to understand and help me when I was a scared teenager.  She is an sensitive and kind hearted person who could not take one more bit of pain in her life and so she became tough to survive.  She did the best with what she had and she took responsibility for her children when she was finally able to and raised us the best way she knew how.

She really IS the female John Wayne.  Tough as leather on the outside, heart of gold on the inside.  I'm glad her heart has finally been exposed.  It's a good heart. 

She has become a wonderful grandmother who is working hard to love and support her grandkids and she has a wicked sense of humor.  She taught me a lot about fighting injustice and taking a stand and speaking out when someone needs defending.  She taught me how to work hard, although I think she wonders if I have learned that lesson sometimes, as I can't seem to find my place in the world when it comes to providing for my family.  I won't go into that now, my mom deserves her moment in the sun. 

When push comes to shove, the bottom line really is this:  She has never given up on trying to be my mother.  She could have walked away so many times, starting with the day she found out she was pregnant.  She didn't though.  She chose to have me.  She gave me life.  And then she tried, time and time again to be a part of my life after we were separated.  And despite all of our struggles growing up together, she continues to try to understand me and all of my issues.  I know it's hard for her to watch me struggle.  I know she wonders why I can't get my crap together.  I wonder myself.  But that doesn't keep her from staying in touch.  

She tries to offer advice without being judgmental and she offers financial support when she knows it will help.  I think I'm her problem child and I know her life would be easier if she didn't have to worry about me.  But she's still hanging in there, trying her hardest to fill the role I need her to fill. 

I suck at telling her how much I love and appreciate her because it's just now becoming ok for us to talk about stuff like that and sometimes it still feels awkward.  But it shouldn't be awkward anymore. 

Which is why I want to publicly thank her and the other women in my life who continue to rally around me and my family.   Thanks for the love, the patience, the examples and the support.  I would not be the mother I am today had you ladies not been part of my life. 

Happy Mother's Day! 


Suzanne Barker said...

What an awesome tribute to all the women who have helped you. I think it takes a lot of insight to have reached the point you are at. Kudos to you for going to the effort to look for at.
And kudos to all these wonderful women who helped you along your way.

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