Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day

Before I take a break for the weekend in order to geek out on Star Trek, I thought I would acknowledge Mother's Day by reflecting on the mother-daughter dynamic. Not that I have it figured out. I really do not have a clue. Growing up, my relationship with my mother was so complicated and full of ups and downs, I read My Mother/My Self by Nancy Friday to try and help me understand it. I don't remember a word of it, but just the fact that someone wrote a best selling book detailing the difficulties of the relationship between mothers and their daughters is enough to tell you that it's not easy. Pity the poor man who, like my husband, lives in a household with nothing but women. My husband might explain it away by blaming it all on hormones, but of course we all know it is not that simple.
I have such disparate memories of growing up in the Bleiler household. Some are so wonderful. Some are not. And some, I learned when they came flooding back during a parent's workshop at my daughter's boarding school, I repressed altogether because they were just too hurtful. Mother is a very complex person. When you meet people who know her they either completely love her or cannot abide her. She can be warm and generous, but also vindictive and very cruel if she feels she has been crossed. For my part, I got both sides of her. She said some really damaging things to me growing up. But, she simply said what she thought. No one taught my parents or my friends parents what to do or how to behave around us, and as we grew up and naturally tried to stretch our boundaries they reacted to us according to their own upbringing and their own personalities. Mother did not have the best role model to base her parenting skills on. My grandmother was a notorious grump and Mother has often said that, despite having six children, "Ade" as she was called did not like children. Mother loved me, of that there was no doubt. She just didn't like me very much a lot of the time. I was always prone to being emotional. If I liked something, I really, really liked it. If I didn't, I hated it. If I was happy, I was ecstatic. If I was sad, my eyes and my mood were both black. That level of passion is exhausting, and Mother had her owns worries during my teenage years, so I got on her nerves a lot. For my part, well, I was a Drama Queen, so no relationship was easy for me because I was a natural pot stirrer. Maybe that's a reaction to being brought up in a small town with little real drama (we did have a serial killer in our midst in the early 70's), maybe it's just in my DNA, but whichever it is, it didn't make for an easy road with either parent.
Growing up in a household with two people who were not naturally nurturing made me intent on not repeating their mistakes. (Sound familiar?) Maybe I didn't, but I certainly committed fresh ones. And, my kids have struggled a whole lot more than I did to grow up, so if you want to point to which of us did a better job, I would have to say my mom gets the prize. I was also dead certain that I would maintain a better relationship with my children during their teens. In that category, I was not even close. She wins hands down. But, despite all the conflict and tears that all of the people in that picture have shed as a result of the intertwining relationships, none of us has walked away completely from any of the others. The closest is Kelsey and my mother who have very, very limited interaction. I find it interesting that mothers and daughters can rail away at one another, yet remain connected. We are curious creatures.
My relationship with Mother continues to be a roller coaster ride. We have had good times, but some bad times too. I did some things that were very hurtful to her and vice-versa. I could probably read a hundred books and we'd still never get off that ride, but, in the end, the fact that we're still in the car together proves we have a bond that rivals Super Glue. So, happy Mother's Day Mom, for better or for worse, it looks like we're in this thing together.

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