The Kind of Mom I Want to Be.

11 May

I haven’t spoken to my mother since November 4th, 2007. The date is emblazoned in my mind because it was the day after my wedding. Hard to forget.

My mother is a very angry woman – she has been most of my life, as far back as I can remember. She also spent the better part of my youth bad-mouthing my father to my brother and me. They divorced just before my 12th birthday, and the bashing only got worse from there. He didn’t love us, he didn’t care about us, he didn’t want to pay for anything for us, he was a terrible father… all the thoughts a parent should never burden a child with – forget the fact that they were untrue.

Just shy of my 18th birthday, my mother gave me the worst possible ultimatum a parent could ever give a child:  she told me I had to choose: her or my dad. According to her, I couldn’t have a relationship with them both. I told her that if she was going to force me to pick a parent, I was going to pick the one who didn’t give me the ultimatum. And therein lies the true demise of our relationship.

Sure, I have good memories with her. I remember her taking care of me when I was sick. She was great at that. She liked to bake, so there was always a treat on the counter after school. For a few years when I was really young, she would put little notes with  jokes, or “I love you”  messages in my lunchbox every day. I remember when she told me it was time for my first bra – we were walking into the King of Prussia mall, and she spelled it out: “We have to get you a B – R – A” and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what she was telling me I needed. We had a good laugh about that.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of other warm and fuzzy memories. I don’t have those bonding moments to look back on that most of my girlfriends had with their moms. She never wanted to be my “friend,” a statement she made clear throughout my adolescence. What I don’t think she understood was, she could be my “mom,” and still lay the groundwork for becoming my “friend” later in life. I tried over the years, off and on, to reason with her, and make our fractured relationship work, but it just never panned out.

I’ve since married, and had my first child; a child my mother has never met, never acknowledged with even a card. I’ve moved on from feeling sad and lonely to just plain feeling sorry for her, and to accepting that while she bore me, it does not entitle her the right to wreak havoc or negativity on my life – and now my own family’s lives – forever.

When I found out I was pregnant, I was thrilled. But I was also scared. I thought, ‘please don’t let it be a girl.’ Because I was scared that if it was, I would risk continuing the toxic cycle my mother and I were in. Throughout my pregnancy I tried to recall memories of my childhood, things to look to for direction and strength as I became a mother. Oddly, the one thing that kept surfacing was a memory from elementary school. All the kids on my school bus route had contracted lice. My mother was furious, and I remember sitting in a bathtub while she painfully raked through my long hair with a lice comb, cursing, and making me wince with each tug, telling me that if I only kept my room cleaner, I wouldn’t have “bugs.” Months later, when another lice epidemic hit my class, I hid the school notice from her, and tried to get rid of them myself, which of course was not successful. But I was so scared she was going to blame me for it that I refused to tell her. I was so scared of what she would think of me. That’s an awful burden for an 8-year old.

So now, as my second Mother’s Day approaches, I think about the kind of mom I hope to be. Unfortunately for me, that means recalling memories that remind me of the kind of mom I hope not to be. I hope my son never sees me truly angry. I hope he never hears me speak ill of his dad. I hope my son one day becomes my friend, and trusts me enough to share his life and his experiences and his ups and downs and mistakes with me, and turns to me for advice whenever he needs it. I hope that I can forge a path for my family that will keep them safe and comfortable and teach them values and morals. I hope I can create a loving environment where my kids want to be; somewhere they feel comfortable being themselves in. I hope I can go to bed each night knowing that I’ve done the best job I know how to do as a mom, and know that I will wake up tomorrow and do it again… only better.

I’m certainly not qualified to be dishing out motherly advice (at least not yet), but of course, if you know me and this blog at all, I’m always going to give my two-cents, for whatever it’s worth (Wouldn’t that make it worth exactly 2 cents? Hmmm). So here it is: this Mother’s Day, try to forgo the Hallmark holiday angle and instead really cherish what you’ve got; hug your kids a little longer. Tell them how important they are in your life, and let them love you back. True, unconditional love is a beautiful thing.


3 Responses to “The Kind of Mom I Want to Be.”

  1. Cindy Lupica May 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Okay, totally not nice to make people cry when they are reading your incredibly beautiful posts while they work. Sarah, I always am excited when I see a new post come through from you, and I love reading each delicious word and sentence you create, but I have to say that today’s post blows all the others away. Beautiful, sad, hopeful, heartfelt thoughts. Happy Mother’s Day to you… are one awesome mom!!

    • ogradysarah May 11, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

      Cindy, you are so sweet… thanks for the kind words! Happy wonderful Mother’s Day to YOU! xoxo


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    […] my first Mother’s Day. It was a day I faced with some degree of anxiety, given the status of my relationship with my mother. After all the consideration I had given it, my very first Mother’s Day turned out […]

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