A few weeks ago, when I was putting on makeup, I stepped back from the mirror and realized for the first time, that I am starting to look a lot like my mom. I’ve always been a nice mash up of my mom and dad, and people have always kind of split between saying I looked just like one or the other, but I think as I’m aging, I’m becoming more and more like my mom.
I know for some people that’s a scary thought, but not for me. My mom is the kind of person I strive to be. It’s hard for me to explain it because my mom is complex, our history is complicated.
I was a difficult kid. I got in trouble a lot at home and I had a lot of trouble with boundaries. I was stubborn (clearly I grew out of that) and once I was upset, I was hard to calm. I think I probably spent years of my life in trouble and the worst part was that I always deserved it. Once when I was 5, my mom took us to the store to buy my sister a swimsuit. My birthday had just passed and gotten several bathing suits already, so the shopping wasn’t for me. And as the story goes, I got so upset that she wouldn’t buy me a suit that I threw a fit in the store and in my 5 year old rage, scratched her arm pretty significantly. When I finally calmed down, my mom showed me what I had done and I broke down in tears with remorse.
I have hurt my mother many other times over our 27 years together. Most of them were not physically, but there are days when I think about the things I’d do over, the things I’d do better. I know that I was a difficult child, that I stood at the entry to my bedroom and shouted that I hated her more times than I could probably count. I know I told her she was the worst mom, that she was the meanest. I searched and found the most hurtful words I could find and hurled them at her. I wore her patience, I exhausted her calm. I blamed her for things she didn’t do.
The last time I really remember hurting my mom was when I was 21. I was studying abroad in Greece and I had been sending back funny emails to friends and family. In my last email there, I gave my top 10 things I loved about Greece, and one of them was that I got time to explore my life away from my family. It was callous and meant to be funny, but I found out through other family members that it had really hurt my mom’s feelings and I was heartbroken.
I try not to live in regrets, but one of the things I think about and wish I could undo the most are all the times, the years, that I took my mom for granted. My mom has rushed to my aid hundreds of times, often without being asked. She’s driven thousands of miles just to be there with me, to hold my hand, to give me a hug. She’s bent over backwards, she’s shelled out thousands of dollars, all for me. And I sometimes wonder how I will ever repay her for all she’s done.
I don’t know how to repay someone for being your best friend. For being the voice of reason in a crisis. For being willing to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week about anything. For sending me anxiety pills in the mail because I ran out and my insurance wouldn’t cover a refill yet. For sending me cards to let me know she’s thinking about me. For sending me text messages that say that she loves me.
How do you repay someone for being exactly what you’ve needed at every phase of your life?
Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday. Her 55th, which she probably didn’t want me to tell you, but I’ve never been a very good listener. I have always struggled to get her gifts at her birthday. I never feel like I can give her enough. I never feel like what I get her is special enough or meaningful enough. I have never been able to find a gift to show her how very much she means to me, how incredibly glad I am that she was born, that she is my mother.
I’ve never been able to find a way to show her how grateful I am, every single day, to have her in my life. Hallmark just doesn’t make a card for that.
I don’t know that I will ever repay my mother, or make up for the things I would undo from our history, but I hope that she knows how much I love her, how grateful I am for all she has done for me, for all she has given up for me. I can’t wait to be a mother so that I can watch her with her grandchildren, so I can teach my daughters the things she taught me.
When I look in the mirror and see her, I’m comforted. Growing into my mother doesn’t scare me, it’s not something I’ll ever complain about.
Because there is no one on this earth I’d rather be like than my mom.
Happy birthday Mom. Even though it will never be enough, know that I love you with all my heart and that even if I didn’t say it enough as a kid, or even now as an adult, I am so thankful to have you in my life. I could not ask for a better role model, a better friend, a better mom than you.