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Dear Mother, don't smother...

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…

This week’s winner of iBlog Friday is Joanna Lamb of Joanna Writes Here. Congratulations Joanna. Your prize is in the mail. Joanna is the winner with her post Mother, don’t smother.

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.

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I suppose that being a mum means that part of your heart is walking around out there in the wide world, and of course you’ll love them without rhyme or reason, and worry about them forever. And part of being a child is being gently guided, but knowing when you’re old enough and brave enough to stand up and guide yourself.

But there comes a time when your child will finally figure out who they are, and that won’t be a person identical to you, or even what you would have chosen for them. They won’t necessarily think like you, or have the same tastes as you. Of course, as a parent, this is exactly what you really want for your child - for them to be their own person. But it must be so hard to let go of that little girl who used to look up at you like you were her whole world, and then suddenly wanted to be free to roam the world and dye her hair a shade of blonde that is slightly too light for your liking.

Your children will always need your love and support, but they won’t always want, or need, your opinion. I try to remember how my mother held me when I was scared, soothed me when I was sick, and picked me up every time I fell, and I try not to get too frustrated with her. (I’m sure she tries not to get frustrated with me all the time.) And one day, when part of my heart is out there, walking around in such a big, scary world, I’ll finally understand that desperate, all-consuming love.

Joanna writes at joannawriteshere.tumblr.com

Have you learned not to take your mother's criticisms personally?

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