searching for mother's day
By Kathryn Baxter
In many ways, my mom and I grew up together. I learned half of my life-lessons by watching Mom struggle through hers. I’ve talked her down from panic and up from depression - just as she has for me. We created budgets to help her get back on her feet and talked about our many relationship problems.
My mother is in her mid-60s. I am in my mid-30s. It’s been a long road for us. She and my dad have been divorced for over 20 years. That divorce was hard on her and, like most people, we didn’t do it all perfectly. She shared a lot with me as she found her footing, and I jumped in and tried to take the place of an adult in the house. Later, when I got engaged, I was totally honest with my fiancee: I have a mother who I am responsible for.
Many of my peers have children and I used to find their struggle with letting their kids go out and explore the dangerous, exciting world on their own completely unrelatable. But now I can. I can absolutely relate, albeit in a slightly warped, mildly dysfunctional way.
Today, Mom has a good job that doesn’t demand her weekends, doesn’t force her into strange personality conflicts, and allows her to live independently. She’s also in a new relationship and, while it is still in its early stages, she is happy, having fun, and feeling cared-for. I listened to her voice on the phone during a recent conversation; it was soft but strong, her energy joyful but relaxed.
Today, I feel like a mother myself, trying to let her go. My mother is out there, falling in love, considering huge life decisions and for the first time in a long, long time, I don’t have a say in them. I recently told her, “I have been your teammate for 20 years. I’ve been ranked second when you have long-term relationships, but then, when those ended, I came back to bat!”
I always will be here for her if she needs me but I have to let go. This time if feels different. She wasn’t as strong then as she is now, not as independent or self-reliant as she is now. I have to let her pick her new teammate, and accept that there might be some mistakes. I have to trust that what she tells me is true: She is being loved, valued and well cared for. She is happy and safe.
I told her all that on the phone, hopefully conveying the full support and love in my heart. But I worry. I worry that she will let herself be blinded by love and allow herself to make poor choices, to count on the wrong person, to allow herself to be taken advantage of.
What brought tears to my eyes wasn’t fear, but the way I was finally able to share my feelings without anger. I wasn’t interested in controlling her life in the hopes of protecting us both. And she wasn’t fighting me, telling me to back off and stop ruining her good feelings. Instead, we talked and truly heard each other.
For the first moment in I don’t know how long, I felt like my mother was my mom and I was her daughter and there was a nice clean line where one stopped and and the other began. She sounded safe and happy and in control. That might be all it takes for me to feel the same.