Monday 22 December 2014

The Only Daughter

There's something special about the bond between mother and child. It's different for everyone though. Some sons are closer, some daughters are closer, some don't have the opportunity to have that bond which in itself is a different kind of special, don't ask me how.

For pretty much my entire life I've taken immense pleasure doing the opposite of what my mother asked or wanted me to do. She had her ideas and preconceptions of what a daughter should be, and I almost always refused to agree with her. It was kinda fun.

Naturally this caused tension between us, we still loved each other, but hardly ever saw eye to eye which was hard. 

I think we've spent most of my life wishing each other was closer to the ideal mother or daughter that we each had in mind, and resented the fact that it was never going to happen. I wanted to have the kind of mother I saw some of my other friends have, the one I could relate to and be good friends with, I got the mentally ill yet loving and nurturing one who was taught to obey at all costs. She wanted the submissive and dutifully obedient daughter that enjoyed everything she did. Camps, religious things, classical music, non-trashy romance novels. I wasn't and just couldn't be that. I found it soul-crushing and ultimately, just not who I was.

I hated the fact that she made me feel that I was never good enough or could never be who she wanted me to be, and just wished she would accept me for who I was. It really sucked.

After years of quarreling I decided enough was enough and moved out of home. Mum was thrilled. Perhaps because subconsciously she was getting her own way, but more obviously, because it gave her something to talk about with the ladies at her various church groups whose kids had already moved on to bigger and better things and they could live through their children.

I realized this is what she was doing and resented it again, but then acknowledged that I'd done similarly and that because of the way she'd grown up, she never thought it was possible to do what I was doing, and yet there I was. Out of home at 21, marriage not imminent, living with 2 strangers (females, for safety sake) and fully enjoying my new found independence. I'd say it was terrifyingly exciting for her, but that's just me.

My relationship with her has dramatically improved. I can appreciate her so much more now because we're not getting under each other's skin. I think there is still some slight underlying wishing that we were still different people, but we've come to accept each other for who we are.

When we made plans to go to the aquarium last weekend but fell through at the last minute when I realized the free tickets I'd been given has expired the day before. I thought rather than letting mum down at the last minute, I'd surprise her at the train station with a bouquet of flowers (because aren't all mums worth it?!) and tell her there was a change of plans and I'd be shouting her the High Tea instead. In my mind it was a foolproof plan, except that my time management skills seem to falter slightly when it involves meeting up with a parental figure.

After I arrived in the city and told her of my seemingly brilliant plan, she wasn't as overjoyed as I thought she'd be. She just took it in her stride and I felt more determined to make it up to her, kinda in the way that a parent feels bad for letting down their child and seeks to brighten their day in another manner and as quickly as possible. That's the kind of relationship she and I have. I've been a mother/older sister to her since I was a teenager (hence part of the resentment). Now I'm at an age where it's not so bad. In fact, I don't quite mind it.

She thoroughly enjoyed the cakes and pot of tea and just having the opportunity to get out of the house and spend some time with another female, just having a girly day out. She said she did want to make another day trip to the aquarium which I said we could do in my upcoming work holidays and she was happy.

As we were leaving, she thanked me for a wonderful day even if it was cut short by my next engagement, but she told me how much she enjoyed the food and tea and she was glad to be with someone who encouraged her to 'spend money' although I pointed out that it probably wasn't the best form of encouragement one could offer. She's never been the type of person to leave her comfort zone, admittedly I don't think a vast majority of people are, myself occasionally included. It really made me appreciate her, our relationship, but mostly how lucky I am. The people we wanted each other to be weren't the ones we were meant to be or needed to be.

She's taught me kindness, gentleness, caring and compassion. How to give unto others without expecting anything in return. How to be grateful for what I have and how everyone is strong in the only way they can be, even if it doesn't seem like it. I think the biggest lesson she's taught me albeit indirectly is how to be my own person. I saw the kind of life she had for herself and thought it was the most boring thing ever. I'm not housewife material, least of all a submissive one. Yes I can cook and clean and keep a place in some kind of order, I can nurture and mother and do all those things, but I can't be stifled or oppressed. I refuse to let a man make decisions for me about my life. He, and no one else can control me. I am a free spirit who will not be tamed. 

Being co-raised by her made me feel different. No one else at school or church or wherever else I was talked about their mother's latest mental episode. Granted she's lived in childlike denial her whole life so she sees her illnesses as something akin to a cold and takes her medicines every night like a dutiful child would. 

It also gave me the ability to understand. 

What it's like to have or be around people with mental illnesses or just illnesses in general. To have someone in your family who makes it a little less than normal (by society's standards), but mostly to appreciate that no one is perfect and we are all doing the best we can with what we have where we are.

Because of her (and the environment in which I was raised) I am fascinated by the way the mind works, why we do things, why we think things or in some case why we don't. I am also hopelessly enthusiastic about what we are capable of achieving when we stop blaming others, worrying so much about what other people think (including ourselves) and just enjoying the life we have in the best way we can. Without limits, reservations or judgments.

On another note, I ran into the mother of one of the guys I went to school with a few months back. She had all boys and was, from what I could tell, a very loving and nurturing mother who wanted nothing more than to share her love of feminine and girly things with a daughter she never had.

When we spoke, she mentioned that her eldest sons (the firstborn was in my class) had gotten married within a few months of each other and she FINALLY had the girls in the family which she'd longed for. I was happy for her. After meeting up with mum recently I could start to fully appreciate just what that meant. Even though she hadn't given birth to, or raised the girls, they loved and were committed to spending the rest of their lives with the boys whom she had. Presuming the girls were on the same wavelength as her, she could now share the same interests which I share with my mother. 

That's a different kind a special mother/daughter bond.

One of my close friends sadly lost her mother at a young age and because of that, has her reservations about motherhood. The exciting thing, at least from my perspective, is that she has the opportunity to create a different kind of bond with her future mother-in-law, or if that doesn't go as planned, her future child/ren.

I always desperately wanted an older sister when I was little and found that need fulfilled in so many of my friendships. Now I'm in a place in my life where I don't need a sister. I've got fantastic friends who themselves are only daughters, or some of them are, and when they're busy, I have the mother/daughter/sister within myself which is the greatest gift I could ever have.

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