When I was watching my body swell with the miracle of my firstborn three decades or so ago, I knew I wanted to do some things differently with my children than my own mother had.
Something inside of me needed to prove to all the watching world that I was not my mom. That I was me. And that in being me I could be a better mother than mine had been.
(my granddaughter Scarlet and I)
I was wrong.
Because, you see, in rejecting so much of my mom I gave my children just me. And I wasn’t enough for them. I didn’t have all that they needed. And I made so many mistakes in the process of trying to prove something that wasn’t right.
And to be honest with you, I hurt my mom by failing to value who she was.
The truth I see now is that my mom is an amazing woman. Her own mother was nice and sweet and gentle and not very involved in her life. They didn’t talk about important things, she never said no or be careful or maybe you shouldn’t go there or do that. And that messed my mom up a bit.
(my mom and Scarlet)
And so my mom determined to raise us differently. She talked to me. Told me things I didn’t want to hear, warning her head-in-the-clouds daughter that life is not a fairy tale and I’d better watch out.
And she did stuff with us. She was the den mother and the chaperone and the driver of the car on trips to the beach. Everybody hung out at our house because she always had homemade cookies and enough food to feed the crowd. And she was fun.
And now you’re wondering what in the world I would reject about that?
I would saved all of us a whole lot of trouble if I’d simply made a few adjustments to allow myself to be me while still listening to mom.
My mother and I are friends now. Two women on polar opposite ends of the personality spectrum, we work hard to get along, to value each other, to give each other space to be who we are. It’s not always easy and it doesn’t always work as well as we’d like, but we’re trying.
I’ve put together a list of things I have discovered in this process of becoming friends with my mother that I hope will help you with yours.
(my granddaughter Sunday and daughter-in-law Tammy)
I realize that there are some really mean and hurtful mothers out there who have caused immense pain. And I know that some of you will never be able to actually call your mom your friend.
But we can all try, can’t we?
And we can all take responsibility for our own responses.
You can be gracious and lovely and strong and nice back. No one can take that away from you.
And so with Mother’s Day just behind us and my mom visiting this week, here are…
SIX WAYS TO FIX WHAT IS BROKEN BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR MOM:
1. Accept her
This is what I failed to do for a long time. Instead of loving who she was, I poked and critiqued and compared.
And what a waste.
When I finally began to let her be who she is, I began to see how great she really is and has been all along. She is incredibly organized and disciplined and smart and giving and open and fun. I really like her- imagine that!
2. Forgive her
Holding a grudge against your mother is pointless and harmful and unwise and unproductive. You saw her at her worst. And your kids will see enough of you in their lifetimes to figure out everything wrong with you too. Set yourself free from all that pain she caused you before you end up dumping it all over your own children.
3. Learn from her mistakes
Be honest with yourself about what she did wrong. Then choose differently. You don’t have to make a show about it like I did all those years ago. In fact, I’m inviting my daughters a little further into my story to allow them to build on my mistakes. There are things I’d do differently if I had a chance and I’m talking about some of those things with my girls.
A little humbling? Yeah, but amazingly liberating at the same time.
4. Be grateful
It’s so easy to criticize your mom. To take potshots at her way of doing everything from laundry to love. What if instead we decided to start listing every memory we have that we’re grateful for? What if we stopped comparing her to The Perfect Mom and chose to value her instead?
5. Show it
Every mother lives with a certain amount of shame. We remember every time we yelled, or were cross, or didn’t do enough. Some mothers harden up to put that pain into an untouchable vault, denying any wrongdoing ever. Others get all needy, sucking their children of every last vestige of affirmation available.
When my children point out something they value about me I hold those words close inside and relish every syllable. Its not thanks we need so much as recognition of who we are as women. And it’s my own children who have uncovered this need. They are generous with their words to me. And it’s making me see that I’ve been stingy with my mom.
6. Know when to speak up
Sometimes a mother has hurt her children so deeply that it becomes impossible to overlook those flaws. And sometimes a mother continues to hurt her adult children with her unedited words or unaccounted for actions. That’s when we’ve got to gather every last vestige of courage, risk the relationship, and obey the Scriptural injunction in Ephesians 4:25 to “Speak the truth in love”. The actual Greek wording is something like “Speak! Speak! that truth in a loving way.”
My advice to any daughter considering such a step would be to seek out godly counsel before going there. We’re such emotionally intense creatures- especially when it comes to relationships, that we would be wise to allow someone else to weigh in on our plan. After all, mothers get their hearts hurt too and most of the bad stuff can really be overlooked.
May this One who craves connection with us clear the way for you to have close and loving connection with your own mothers and daughters and sons in the year to come.
And may He give you the courage to do the hard work of learning how.
From my heart,
P.S. Thanks, Mom, for allowing me to be who I am. Love, Di