Monday, August 25, 2008

mothers and daughters

I got her blue eyes. The only one of eight children to get them. I am also the oldest. Previously I have always had a close relationship with my mother. Not big talkers, either one of us, with personalities leaning toward the spiritual, I was her good child, the one she could lean on, count on when all my other siblings ran got off course and didn't "choosing the right".
Now, with most my other siblings safely in the fold of the church (presumably having 'gotten it all out' in their young and rebellious years) it is my turn to tear her heart out. And to do it so cruelly.
Everything about me now is a rejection of her beliefs and values: her faith, her politics, her lifelong calling as stay-at-home-mother...
You know... I think my losing faith in the church, and swinging left in my politics are hard for her, but not unbearable.
But I think that my only having one child is killing her; proof that I do not think she was a good mother.
"Was there something in the way I was as a mother that makes you not want to be a mom?"
She asked me that today, in the moment as we were saying our goodbyes. I was unprepared for it, didn't know how to respond, we were in the process of going to our cars, going our separate ways... "Was there something in the way I was as a mother..."

My choices becomes her proof that she was lacking as a mother.
I'll have to write more about this later. Not now.


JohnR said...

G., I think that her question says more about her own insecurity than it does about the character of your own choices. I hope that she can learn, eventually, to know that you choosing to live your life in the manner that is most meaningful to you isn't a referendum on her values. And I hope that you can embrace your own decisions without feeling guilty about how it all impacts your mom.

JohnR said...

I forgot to say that I love the picture. It emphasizes the connection between you and makes this so much more poignant.

sarah k. said...

I agree with John. I also think that your mom is having a great deal of pain that you aren't thinking exactly the way she does, but you can help her learn to be proud that she raised a daughter with the ability to think things through, to make decisions for herself. I would love to say that someday she will understand this, but I also know how deeply ingrained the church's teachings are. Remind her how much you love her, how grateful you are for all she's done, all she's taught you. Remind her that self-blame is contrary to so many of the church's teachings (talk after talk in conference).

I like how I'm giving you all sorts of advice, but I really don't know what I'm talking about. I just know that I'm in nearly the same situation, but for us it's my mother in law. This is one of my biggest sources of anger and resentment at the church, that it has such and all-or-nothing view of everything that its members can't have normal relationships with family members who don't believe it all.

Bored in Vernal said...

I also agree with John--from the perspective of the mother of eight. I am always so afraid that I somehow screwed my children up because of my poor choices. I especially worry that my oldest won't ever want to have children because she took so much of the burden of helping me with her younger siblings.

I am still trying to learn that I did what I could when raising them and even if that wasn't my best or even very good, that it was OK. This is really freaky but I am just sobbing as I write this.

Another problem for parents is that our Church is so entangled in the members' lives that when the children pull away from it or begin to look at it with critical eyes it is hard not to feel they are rejecting their parents. The mother/daughter relationship is so tangled, and when you add the Church to the mess it is a wonder that any of us are sane at all.

Jessica said...

I promise I won't always link to other posts, but your story reminds me of the ZD post called,
Are Children Products?

comment 26 by Ziff is my favorite.
He's talking about the notion that righteous parents can save their children.
"This doesn’t sound like real agency to me. If children really have agency, they should have the power to get themselves damned in spite of having the most righteous parents"

I think it's damaging to think our children's choices reflect our success or failure as parents.
It's strange because we never examine this concept when our children succeed (in our eyes, of course) only when they don't.

G, I wish you luck in your relationship with your mother. It sounds very tricky. My heart goes out to you.

G said...

thanks, everyone, for your comments...

mostly, I want to do a better job of showing my Mom that I do love her, even though I am doing things differently than she did.

Our relationship is complex, and I have often said things that hurt her feelings.

And thank you, jessica, for the links- I LOVE links, and hardly ever know what is happening around the bloggernacle, so I really really appreciate the links! :)

Jessica said...

I just reread my comment and it sounds like I think you're getting yourself damned!
I promise I don't :)
Ziff's quote just really stuck in my mind, it was a new idea to me when I read it.
(smiles sheepishly)

G said...

heh heh! it's okay, I didn't take it that way.
(and I really like ziff's comment. it' makes a lot of sense.)

Julie said...

I so appreciate that you posted husband and I recently resigned from the church and are very liberal people in two very large conservative mormon families. And we have no kids. Both of our mothers are having a difficult time but I don't know that they would ever be so sincere as to ask this question, though I'm sure they are thinking it. It took us almost two years after we left the church to tell our parents because we knew they would take it so personally.