Like everyone, no one is perfect, and so even moms have their moments, too. Of course, I’m sure I didn’t think this as a young child and certainly not as a teen. But as I grew and became a mother myself, I realized there are all sorts of mothers. Mothers who care. Mothers who hover. Mothers who are absent. Mothers who fail. Mothers who don’t have all the answers. Mothers who are aged. Mothers who are too young. And even, mothers who don’t know how they became mothers.
From an early age, I understood having a baby was a miracle. I don’t recall necessarily listening to my momma’s belly or feeling her next baby kick so much as remembering her tummy growing bigger and bigger. I also remember, on occasion, waiting for my daddy to tell me and my siblings when our next brother or sister had arrived.
Once I, myself, went through nine months of pregnancy and labor, I had a new respect for my momma – and for all mothers who gave birth, and even more for those with twins, breach and other complicated births. Through nineteen and a half hours of labor, I knew it was not an easy feat and wondered in awe about mothers who chose to have more than one child.
What I Love Best About My Momma
There are a few things which have always stood out to me about my momma. One, she was always younger than all the other moms – which kind of annoyed me and, at the same time, made me proud. Two, she always wanted the best for her children. And three, she had a way of smiling and laughing with everyone despite tough times at home.
Despite little to no income or other resources, in her young way, she wanted no harm to come to her children. And when she could spare us from neglect, hurt, or hunger, she’d do her best to provide better for us. Growing up in a farming family, she was raised with a strong work ethic. So, when times were tough, she would sell baked goods, work in the watermelon packing sheds, and even alternate twelve-hour shifts at a gasoline station to make ends meet.
The Early Years
When I was growing up, I didn’t know the things my momma had endured in her life before there was me. As a teenager, I was quite resentful of my place as oldest in the family. I didn’t understand that, even though times were tough for me and for my siblings, they were never as tough as they were for our momma as a child.
My momma was fifteen years old when she had me. Back in her day and culture, young girls were married off in their preteens. At her young age of thirteen, she was already considered an old maid. Rather than be married off to someone from Mexico and have to also deal with being away from her family and her familiar surroundings, she allowed herself to be matched up with my dad. He was seventeen years her senior, divorced, and carrying his own history.
Being that Momma was so young when she went into labor with me, the doctor chose to put her out, or under, in case there was an emergency, and also (I think) so she wouldn’t have too bad of a birthing experience. When I learned this from her years later, it explained to me part of why I didn’t seem to feel a connection to her. She went on to explain to me that part of the feeling I had was also due to my daddy doing most of my infant care. He had a son from his first marriage and when she gave birth to a girl, he was in heaven. Momma says he rocked me, changed me, even washed my dirty cloth diapers so she wouldn’t have to, and only gave me to her when it was time to nurse. Learning these two things, explained so much to me.
As Mother and Child Grew
When I was first born, my momma didn’t have a lot of experience raising a child at her age. So, she says, she would care for us as she would if we were her dolls, hoping she was caring well enough for us. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be so young and having one child after another almost a year apart in some cases.
As I grew, some of my earliest memories are of Momma reading to me and my siblings. I loved hearing her voice, and it often lulled us all to sleep for naptime. She would sing to us and teach me simple chores when I would ask. As I got a little older, she taught me how to tell time.
My momma loved to cook and bake and, being the oldest, I was very often her sous chef. I recall not being able to clean or wash utensils or other items fast enough to save my life. During the summer between third and fourth grade, my daddy enrolled me in a cooking course at the high school. I still have the cookbook sponsored by General Electric (packed away somewhere, of course). I was so proud of myself and the meals I had learned to cook. Yet, although a couple of my sisters developed our momma’s love of cooking and baking, sadly, I never did.
Teenage Life with Mom
As I grew older, Momma Love (as I call her today) and I had our good times and our bad times. Half the time we were best friends, I her confidante, doing chores together and being quite amiable. The other half of the time I was butting heads with her as I rebelled at being the oldest, fought for independence, and sought to understand my role in our family. Being the oldest came with a lot of responsibility, and I wasn’t too keen about it, especially when I had seven younger siblings who could be picking up after themselves and helping with chores.
From the age of sixteen, I was not the best daughter. As much as I tried, I failed miserably. This is a part of my life which I am not proud of and have yet to write about publicly and which I may never refer to again. Although there were many good times between me and my momma then, there are also many times that, if I could change the hands of time, I would go back and do differently. But for now, the important thing to know is I have come a long way since then – in my relationship with my momma and with myself.
As a Young Adult
It was many years later before I would realize that my momma and daddy were doing the best they could in a relationship neither one of them had necessarily asked for. Yet, they loved us kids enough not to split up and divide our family or to abandon us, and for that I have always been grateful. It is the one thing which, years later when my own patience with my husband and only child was being tested, would keep me hanging in there. Life is not always easy, but this is not something we are taught in school or even at home sometimes.
After moving away from “home” to the big city in my mid-twenties, life between Momma and I continued to ebb and flow. Yet I would drive five hours, leaving at ungodly hours of the night or morning, just to see her because I missed her so much. And she would come to the city to visit me – sometimes with my future stepdad and at other times with one of my younger siblings.
When I Became a Mother
Once I married, hubs and I moved out of state, and so letters were mine and Momma’s biggest mode of communication. We wrote fervently back and forth to each other, ironing out as many misunderstandings or miscommunications in our relationship as we could. I learned a lot about many of the decisions she had made along her way, the love she always had for us kids – even when we were rebellious and rude, and how her own life growing up affected how she mothered or, maybe, didn’t mother us.
While out of state, I became a mother to my only child. Becoming a mother made all the difference in how I viewed many things I had experienced as a daughter. Seeing my momma with the new eyes of motherhood allowed me the ability to understand so much I hadn’t understood before. I also started to see, now that my world revolved around my child, how her world revolved around all eight of her children not just me.
As Mothers Today
Now that we are mothers and grandmothers, and each older, we are both on common ground in many wonderful ways. We survived the teen years – both hers and mine – and can laugh and joke, and plot and plan, and kick back and relax, and adapt to changes in life much better than in our earlier years – separate or together. And, if there is one thing I believe my momma would say about motherhood, which I would also say, it is this: if you love your mother or your children, never give up on them.
Life is crazy. Life is hard. Life is full of the unexpected. Motherhood is meant to be a miracle – not just in the birthing experience, but also in the growing experience. This is where the true bonding of motherhood comes from. Sure, it is the nursing and the changing of diapers and the playing and the nurturing. But it is also in the butting of heads and the misunderstandings and the words of healing and forgiveness.
A Loving Word
Wherever you are on your journey of motherhood – whether you are a mother or a child, I hope that Mother’s Day is a special day for you – to not just give or receive gifts of flowers, chocolate, or perfume in honor and appreciation, but to also give the gift of time. Sure, Mother’s Day has been overly commercialized, but it started out as a day to commemorate and honor our mothers. I haven’t always had the best mom, and I haven’t always been the best daughter or the best mom myself. But every day is a new day to start fresh, allowing LOVE to shine through and bring each of us home to our momma’s heart.
Life is short. Take today to reach out to your mother if you can. Thankfully, my momma is still living. But hers is not and many others I know either don’t know who their mother is or where she is or have lost her to passing on or to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and hardened hearts. Let your heart be filled with all that is the miracle of motherhood. If you are able to, reach out to your mom. Every person I know who misses their mom will tell you not to let another day go by without at least trying to mend your hearts. Start slow. Hug. Smile. Forgive the past. Begin anew.
Relationships can be complicated. But if you want a relationship with your mother – and can have one, it is important to do so. Let time heal. Reach out. Decide a relationship with mom is what you need in your life. Take today to start a new journey of the miracle of motherhood.
Please note: My next blog on motherhood will be posted during the week of May 16th. In it, I will blog about my own motherhood with my miracle child and only son.
Happy Mother’s Day and see you then!