In Honor of Mother's Day
Nearly 42 years ago, you became a second-time-mom to a daughter. Your first child, my brother, was an “easy” baby who “didn’t need much.” Little did you know that you wouldn’t be quite as lucky the second time around!
I came into the world with an undeniable need for self-expression, immediately evident by my prolonged screaming. Despite your exhaustive efforts to provide comfort, my screaming persisted for months, sometimes lasting for hours and hours. Deemed “colicky” by my pediatrician, I caused quite a disruption to your sleep and your sanity. While most babies outgrow colic around three months, mine lasted an impressive seven.
By toddlerhood, the screaming had subsided and my need for self-expression was seen in my insatiable amount of energy. A “whirling dervish” you called me; my behavior resembled a rapid, spinning object. I was hard to keep up with, demanding, and had big emotions- an undeniable need for self-expression. A far cry from my mellow, introverted older brother. And quite a challenge for you as my mother.
“I didn’t know what to do with you,” you’ve explained during some of our discussions about my childhood and our relationship. The picture of rational and even-keeled, you were taken aback by my emotionality, my energy, my bigness. It both enthralled and terrified you. For a woman who had learned early on to keep her emotions at a distance, having a daughter whose emotions lived on the surface added an extra layer of difficulty to parenting.
Enter puberty. Take an already emotional, deeply feeling girl with a sensitive nervous system, throw in a hefty dose of hormones and, well, you’re in trouble. I knew how to push buttons you didn’t know you had! You were like Job in the Old Testament, no matter what I threw at you- screaming “I HATE YOU!”, slamming doors, eye rolls at everything you said and did, back-talk, sarcasm, the cold shoulder, countless intense emotional outbursts- you remained cool, calm, and collected, never wavering in your love, always there with a warm embrace when I was ready. You were truly an angel.
I imagine there were moments (probably many of them) when you thought, I didn’t sign up for this, who is this child and where did she come from? Why can’t I seem to meet her needs? What am I missing? Am I the right mom for her? With such starkly different temperaments, it was difficult for us to understand and to connect with one another. I never doubted your love for me, but at times, I wondered if I was the right daughter for you.
Nearly six years ago, I became a mom to my first son, H. Like a chip off the ol’ block, he came out screaming and never stopped! Despite my exhaustive efforts to provide comfort, his screaming persisted for months, sometimes lasting for hours and hours. Deemed “colicky” by his pediatrician, he caused quite a disruption to my sleep and my sanity. While most babies outgrow colic around three months, his lasted an impressive ten (outdid me on that one!).
As he entered toddlerhood, the screaming turned into tantrums and meltdowns that would have caused the Buddha to lose his cool. Take an already emotional, deeply feeling boy with a sensitive nervous system, pair him with an emotional, deeply feeling mother with a sensitive nervous system, and, well, you’re in trouble. At two-years-old, he was (inadvertently) pushing buttons I didn’t know I had and by five-and-a-half, he was screaming, “I HATE YOU,” slamming doors, and having countless intense emotional outbursts.
There have been moments during the past six years (many of them) when I’ve thought, I didn’t sign up for this, who is this child and where did he come from? Why can’t I seem to meet his needs? What am I missing? Am I the right mom for him?
Here’s what I’ve come to know deep in my bones. You, my beautiful, loving mother, were and are the absolute perfect mother for me and I was and am the perfect daughter for you just as I am the absolute perfect mother for H and he’s the perfect son for me.
It’s true that you and I are opposites in many ways. It’s also true that we’ve challenged each other in the exact ways we needed to be challenged in order to grow and to love each other, ourselves, and others more deeply.
Though it’s taken a long time for me to learn (and I’m still learning), you’ve taught me how to be more resilient when faced with life’s inevitable storms, how to feel things without letting my feelings get the best of me. You’ve modeled selflessness and devotion. You’ve taught me the value of accepting things I cannot change and of being incredibly grateful for all that I’ve been blessed with. You’ve loved me fiercely, with all that you’ve had, since the moment I was born.
Though it’s taken a long time for you to learn (and you’re still learning), I’ve (inadvertently) taught you the value of feeling your feelings when faced with life’s inevitable storms, that your feelings are nothing to fear. I’ve modeled that even if you get temporarily engulfed by your emotions, you’ll always come out the other side. I’ve taught you the upside of emotionality- the ability to connect more deeply with others. I’ve loved you fiercely, with all that I've had, since the moment I was born.
To all the moms out there, especially the ones struggling to parent a child with extra needs and/or a child whose needs you're struggling to meet, know that you are the perfect mom for your child and your child is the perfect child for you.
Just as we teach and guide our children, they teach and guide us. When we stop resisting our differences and the challenges our children present us with, we can open ourselves up to what they're here to teach us.
It then becomes indisputably clear that we and our children were matches made in heaven.
Happy Mother’s Day to my incredible mom and to all you incredible moms out there.
I love you, Mom, and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect match.