I know that over the course of Carrie's upbringing I did a lot of things right, but there are definitely things I would've/should've/could've done differently. There have been far too many times when I've lost my temper and said things I regret, and life mistakes I've made that Carrie was forced to bear witness to... Junk like that that's really silly to ruminate about at this point.
Thoughts of the way my mother parented us also flood my mind. I think about how the interactions between us played such an important role in the way I’ve parented my own daughter.
My mom and I went through some rocky times in our early years. I wasn’t a bad kid, really. I was a good student and was respectful to teachers and everyone I knew, but I could be really sassy with my mother. In hindsight I realize that in many ways we were so much alike that we were bound to butt heads, but the main issue was that she was going through a divorce at the age of 34, and I was along for the ride at the age of 15. What I needed at the time she was unequipped to provide, and I suppose she could have said the same about me.
I vowed that things would be different if I ever had a daughter of my own. And things were/are different for Carrie and me – but the fact of the matter is that everything was different for Carrie and me. Our mother/daughter relationship can’t really be compared because my mom had her own unique set of challenges and I had mine.
It might surprise you to know that my mom and I went through times when we didn’t speak to each other for a year or more at a time. In fact, we didn’t speak to each other for a couple of years when Carrie was between the ages of two and four. And just now, when I typed those words, I felt a pang of guilt and sorrow knowing how my mom must have longed for us during that time, yet she and I were both too stubborn to move past our own issues. We lost time that can never be regained.
I can’t say that my mom and I ever completely worked out our differences. I think the more accurate way to put it is that I set some boundaries and she learned not to cross them. I feel a little sad when I think of that – ashamed that maybe she walked on eggshells around me, fearing that a slip of her tongue could have potentially sent our relationship spiraling back to the days of being absent from each other.
When I think of my own shortcomings as a mom (and daughter) I am struck by my harsh judgments toward my own mother. How different things would have been if I hadn’t been so stubborn – how different if I had been more tolerant... All of the “what if’s” pile on top of each other in a big ugly heap, and now that she’s gone there are no do-over’s. And I wonder what kinds of things Carrie aspires to do differently someday, when she's a mom.
I’m a firm believer that everyone does the best they can with what they have to work with at any given time. Knowing that – believing that – makes it possible to find forgiveness for my mom and for myself. The love we had for each other could never be denied, but there were plenty of days when we rubbed each other the wrong way and needed to keep our distance. We were at peace with that many years before she left the planet, so it’s all good, but Mother’s Day gets me every time.