- Posted August 10, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Confessions from imperfect parents
Recovery of an abusive parent--revisited
(Note: Last fall, I posted an article entitled, “Recovery of an abusive parent.” Since then, I’ve continued my road to recovery, but today I am finally seeing an end to the road. To understand this article better, see my November 2013 article. http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1060205 And thank you for reading.)
I was a kick-ass mom.
I always knew I was, but I’d almost stopped believing it until today. I had to see another kick-ass mom through her daughter’s eyes to finally get it.
The daughter, Nicole, is maybe 20. Her mother and my friend, Andrea, died two years ago, suddenly, from an aggressive form of cancer, leaving her three teenaged children stunned and lost. That year and every year since, Nicole has posted a Facebook tribute to her mom, a longing, tender, pain-wracked tribute.
Not this year. This year, I had to do a triple take, both at the photo she uploaded and at the post. I share it here with you:
“This is a photo of the most intimidating woman you would have ever met—not even kidding!”
Who, her gentle mother?
“The way she approached life was by seeking out and applying knowledge to every situation. If you couldn’t keep up (which was practically every single time), well…she would make you feel aware (usually unintentionally) of just how inadequate you were.”
“She was an on-the-clock/off-the-clock perfectionist who valued exceptionalism tremendously, which was just as efficient and productive as it was horrifyingly admirable. To be honest…she was pretty scary.”
Scary? The petite, brown-eyed mother who sang in the church choir and homeschooled her children?
It didn’t end there. But I started to see there. To see me.
“But she also had a silly side that would come out occasionally. It was proof that despite her intensity towards everything in life, she did it all in love and fun. And I learned from her.”
It didn’t end there either. But I started to see something else there. To see a child different than the one I had.
“This incredible woman was my mom. I had never gone more than two days without hearing her voice.”
My adult daughter has gone years without wanting to hear my voice.
“I have been completely separated from her now two whole years. Growing up, I never imagined living a day without her. Unfortunately, life did not work out that way. I could not have asked though for anyone else to better prepare me for life in a world without them in it.”
And there I finally saw it. The kind of mom I had been. A kick-ass mom with three kick-ass children. Except that my older daughter, unlike this daughter, cannot see what this daughter sees. Or chooses not to.
“One of the reasons why I was able to become the person I am today is because of her constant influence and inspiration in my life. This is my mom—my scary, silly mom. I love and miss her deeply.”
I read the post twice, but the second time I read it as a completely different mom. The first time I read it feeling all the anguish and guilt and torment of a mother who had failed to elicit this kind of appreciation and love from her deeply loved daughter, a mother who’d done wrong, a mother who’d gone wrong. I began to weep for my pain, berate myself for my mistakes, wish for myself a daughter who had reason to love me, a daughter like Nicole.
But then, as I reached the end, I saw something I’d never seen before—not in my daughter, but in me.
I read it a second time.
And this time I saw that though I longed for the daughter Nicole is, I did not need to long to be the mother hers had been. I already was that mother.
That was me, the most intimidating woman some had ever met, an on-the-clock/off-the-clock perfectionist who valued exceptionalism, efficient and productive and horrifyingly admirable, even possibly scary.
But also silly. And fun. And ever grateful that these three children—two daughters and a foster son—were mine to prepare for life without me.
I read Nicole’s post a third time, and the shackles of guilt and horror at what I must have done wrong, slipped off me. My eyes, for years searching within to find and fix my egregious faults, saw the truth my daughter almost stole.
I read it a fourth time, and this time, I heard Nicole say to me what she said to her mom:
You were a kick-ass mom.
And while Nicole adds, “And I love you for it,” words my daughter never may, I’m okay with that.
Because I was a kick-ass mom.
And that’s all that really matters.