Listen to your mother, listen to your mother, listen to your mother! When I say those words, what does that mean to you? What did you listen to? What did you hear? What do you remember? I'll tell you what I remember…
"I have to love you, but I don't have to like you. And I don't."
Out of context, that probably sounds like a horrible thing to say to someone. My mother said it to me when I was a teenager and I have never forgotten it. Of course, saying that makes it sound like I carry some baggage from that experience. Truth is, I earned every word.
And now that I am about twenty five years removed from that moment, I see that it is both accurate and true. Until I became a mother, I might not have fully understood. Have you ever seen the movie Absence of Malice with Sally Field and Paul Newman? There's a conversation between a reporter and Sally Field's character towards the end that goes like this: The reporter asks, "That's true, isn't it?" to which Sally says, "No, but it's accurate."
It's accurate to say that in THAT moment, my mother didn't like me very much. And really, why should she? I was selfish, moody, ungrateful and defiant. Sure, she was overprotective and overbearing, but as a mother, I can finally understand those instincts.
I have a defiant daughter. She is stubborn and headstrong and moody and strong willed and independent. I have gone ten rounds with her and been emotionally knocked out. I rarely win. Karma really is a bitch.
But, for all of her incredible witchy-ness, my daughter is also very fragile. And only 7. In the moments that she is tender and loving, I am reminded of how little she is and how responsible I am for her health, her safety, and yes, even her happiness.
It's hard to remember that at 1 o'clock in the morning. It's hard to be kind when you just want five minutes to your self. It's hard to be polite when you're not getting any respect. It's hard to be around someone who pushes all of your buttons.
But from my daughter's perspective, I am her safe place. I am the one she can take it out on. I am the person she loves enough to challenge to love her back.
My mother was, and is, all of those things for me. I challenged her. I questioned her ability to 'do her job'. I spoke ill of her to my friends, piling on the bandwagon of teenagers who just wish their parents were 'insert word here': smarter, richer, cooler, hipper.
I was such an arrogant ass. For every thing we believe as children, for every thing that we swear we will NEVER become as adults -- well, let's just say that if I had a penny for every one of those things, I'd be rich.
Of course, I became my mother. Why wouldn't I? When you look at all of the facts, all of the data, it's the logical choice. She is a great mother. She will always be my mother. No matter where I go, or what I do, she will worry about me. She will send care packages. And she will remember every birthday, every anniversary, every milestone in my life. She has stood by me when I have made a fool of myself, and defended me when I have been and done wrong. She has supported me, cared for me, loved me -- even in my most unlovable moments.
These are the things I strive for in my role as a parent. I am not perfect - and neither is my mother. I am human and flawed and impatient. I am neurotic and often quite unrealistic. But I love my children with all of my heart and my heart will guide me, even when the words I utter aren't ones I wish repeated or remembered.
What my mother said in that moment was accurate. But it was far from the truth. The truth is that she loves me. And when I listened to my mother, that's what I heard. And that's what I really remember.
Want to see me read this essay live? Of course you do.
Now go and see all the other AMAZEBALLS women from the Providence Listen to Your Mother cast perform their heartfelt pieces.