Reflections on Mom

Friday, July 10, 2009

My mom, that is. Still waiting to hear when I'm joining the exclusive club!

Anyone who knows me (and my mom) knows that we haven't always been close. We had alot of rough, angry times. To be truthful, even now, sometimes I don't feel close to her. But by the grace of God, I've felt much closer to her in the last year than ever before. She is still not perfect, but neither am I, and varying unperfectness might as well not be compared when it comes to how God views sins. All have fallen short, remember?

My mom is the oldest of 6 kids. She has always been very close to her parents, even when she was younger, as her siblings recount. So close to them that her allegiance to them is kind of unnatural for a 50-something woman, and it affects (most often negatively) her relationships with her nuclear family. She still seeks her parents' approval (literally) of every aspect of her life, from marriage to raising kids (yes, we're all 20+ years of age!) to financial decisions to vacation schedules. I believe in my heart she is terrified of letting them down. While it is noble to want to please those you love, the magnitude of how this affects her life affects with great consequence the lives of her husband and her kids.

No one knows why she is like this- none of her siblings act with the same mentality- they have all had no problems transitioning to their own adult lives where they do not need to ask their dad whether they should move some money from their savings account to their mutual fund. (I am not kidding!) To be honest, I think it's a little sad that she feels so bound by their influence that she can't be free to do what she might want deep down. For example, one year on the family camping trip, Aunt B (married to my mom's brother) announced to my mom that she was going to take a hike that afternoon by herself to have some quiet time. Mom responded with "Wow, you are so lucky. I don't think my mom would want me hiking alone." Isn't that crazy? You are 50-something, mom! You don't have to ask permission anymore!!!

Can you see how this would affect her nuclear family life? My dad is not the head of the household- her dad is. Talk about how a lack of respect for your husband can affect your marriage. She was always very strict with us, even as we have all moved into adulthood. I agree that kids need alot of structure, but her need to direct our lives as adults does not sit well with us. But in all my reflection on the matter, I've come to the conclusion that she needs to control us even now because she doesn't want us to do anything that would reflect badly to her parents about her job of mothering. She needs to control my dad because she doesn't want him to make a mistake and cause her parents to think she chose badly for a mate. Does that make sense?

Of course, this hurts my dad (and us "kids") alot, to see her lack of respect for him (and us, as adults), because us kids think he is an awesome father and husband. This is where alot of the pain and resentment I sometimes feel for my mom comes from. I can't understand how she can't see what a great husband she has.

But, after being so upset for so long at how she offensively she treats us sometimes, I decided sometime last year to ask God to help me forgive her. Gulp. This is not a one-time forgiveness situation where it never happens again. This is an every-day slap-in-the-face forgiveness situation. You know, the one that God extends to me when I mess up every day. The one that calls to us from the Lord's Prayer "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". Gulp. This was not going to be easy.

Luckily, God is bigger than all of this, and it is with His grace that I've found even the tiniest bit of grace to meet my mom where she is and not continually accost her for her faults. Yes, to me it is easy to see what a great husband she has. But then I think of God's perspective on me... to Him, it is easy to see how my impatience or judgmental behavior is not doing anyone any good and how much better it would be if I were not so ancy or critical.

It is with God's grace that I've been able to push aside the cobwebs and constraints and see that (I think) my mom really wants what other moms have (a better relationship with her husband and grown children), but she doesn't really know how to get there after a tumultuous past.. and when we all think she might finally be shaking her parents' hold, something snaps and she goes sprinting back to their feet. One time several years ago during a fight, she exclaimed "Well, maybe I'm not perfect, but please put on my headstone "She tried to be a good mom"!!!. I think she has started trying to have a better relationship with us, but others in my family are so hurt and broken by her behavior that it colors their response to her attempt at a different behavoir. (Not judging them- it is always my first reaction, too.) But, I can honestly say that most of the time (thanks to God working hard on my heart), I can usually carry on a fairly pleasant conversation with her despite what I see as her pitfalls. It has been tough for me somedays, and sometimes I feel like a hypocrite for talking to her and then hearing from my dad how she has been acting, but I'd like to think that the spirit of forgiveness is working in some small way to soften her heart.

I think the other thing that's helped us start to repair our relationship is our trying to conceive, if that doesn't blow your mind. I was terrified to tell her of our problems, but when I finally did, she responded in an amazing way. She never had to deal with infertility herself, but when she told me this, I knew she understood: "Whenever my other coworkers talk about their grandchildren, I just go back to my office, because I don't have anything to contribute."

Oh, my tears for her! I was so incredibly heartbroken for her.

She recently gave me a beautiful Bible cover, and it is perfect. I told her I'd pray for her every time I opened it (daily), and I mean that. I pray that she'll receive peace about the adult she has become. I pray she'll receive grace to help heal her marriage. I pray she'll receive comfort at the job she has done helping to raise 4 Christian kids. I pray she'll receive forgiveness from those she has hurt. I pray she'll receive courage to be an example of a devoted Christian wife and mother. I pray that she will receive humility in the face of pride. I pray that she'll receive joy when God blesses her with grandchildren.

It's been a long time coming. I'm not perfect, so there are days when I'm so frustrated with her that it is hard to forgive. But I pray that the forgiving days outnumber the enemy's hand, and that God's grace will continue to heal my mom and our relationship. But I am so thankful that the Lord brought this about now, before our kids are born. I used to dread bringing our kids into a resentful mother-grandmother relationship, but I don't anymore. She's not perfect either, so there will probably be occasions when I disagree so vehemently with what she does that I'll want to run exactly the other way, but it brings tears (of joy) to my eyes to think of her being able to join in the discussion with the other grandmothers at her office someday.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog :).

What an incredible post about your mother. I think being aware of the mistakes our parents have made can only make us better spouses, children, AND hopefully one day parents as well.

My mom had/has a really rough relationship with her mother, and has a very similar relationship with my older sister. I've always been the go-between, trying to get them to see that the reason they don't get along is that they are so much ALIKE.

Good luck with continuing to repair your relationship with your mother and with your journey to motherhood!

Hillary said...

Beautiful post. I have to say I can relate SO MUCH to mom has very different issues than yours, but the effects on our relationship are very similar. I cannot tell you how many conversations my best friend and I have had about our mom/daughter relationships, forgiveness, and the efforts we try to make within those relationships.

I did tell my mom about our infertility, and while it has gone better than I expected I feel like there is much emotional connection lacking...

However, I'm too scared to write about that process on my blog for fear that she will find it someday and I will hurt her. But sometimes I wish I could -- it is definitely a big struggle that I deal with. So thanks for posting, it was so encouraging to hear where God has brought you in your relationship with your mom!