The relationship between adult daughter and mother can be a tough one to get right. But a step in the right direction is learning when to bite back…
The older I get, the more I realise how short life is in so many ways. My mother once said that when her children were little was the happiest time of her life, yet it passed her by too quickly. It made me think how fast childhood disappears.
It must feel like just yesterday a mother was holding her newborn baby in her arms. They’re dependent upon you, literally, just to stay alive. The older they get, they need you a little less in some ways, and a little more in other ways. Then, before you know it, they can drive. They move out. They go to university and get jobs. Buy their own home, fall in love, have their own family. In the blink of an eye, your baby is gone.
I try to put myself in my mother’s shoes, and I think it must be a hard habit to break, mothering someone. How do you ease away from taking care of someone, gradually letting them go and learning to understand that they aren’t a child anymore? And while you never stop being a parent to your child, where is the line where you must pull back and let them be their own person?
I’m so close to both my parents, but sometimes I find my mother (sorry, mum) and I entangled in a strange tug of war where I feel she smothers me, and she undoubtedly feels as though I simultaneously pull her towards me and push her away. If I feel that she has judged me in the slightest, it makes me irate. Yet at the same time, I actively seek her approval.
Last weekend, after I’d had my hair done, in the middle of the family dinner chatter, I heard my mother make a comment. ‘Joanna, your hair is so…blonde.’ She doesn’t mean it to, but I can feel her opinion radiating from her like waves. It isn’t how she’d colour her hair. It isn’t how she’d let me colour my hair when I was fifteen. But now, I’m 31 and this is how I want my damn hair, dammit! And for her to make a comment like that, like such a mother, makes my blood boil. She wouldn’t say that to her sister, or her friend, or her colleague, so why does she say it to me?
I don’t bring this up to her any more. It upsets her. Her blue eyes fill with tears and I know I’ve hurt her feelings. She loves me so much; she sees me as an extension of her. She wants the absolute best for me. Perhaps she worries that she hasn’t prepared me enough and I won’t be okay on my own in the world. Perhaps I have reeled her in too much as an adult, demanding her constant involvement, comfort and reassurance. Perhaps, simply, she has been a mother for so long that her heart beats mine and my sister’s names like a beautiful song she’ll never forget the words to.