A Daughter's Insight

Late last night, while I was enjoying my cup of tea, waiting for my cold medication to kick in and deliver me some sweet relief from my aching bones, feverish mind and phlegmy cough, the phone rang. I croaked hello into it, hoping to instill great amounts of pity in whomever was calling me at so late an hour. (Oh, that poor sick woman, I had better be extra nice to her, as she is all alone and sick and taking care of three children, one of whom isn't even hers, and that woman really deserves a medal...I admit it, I worked my croak to instill sympathy and I'm not ashamed of it.)

My croaking efforts were wasted as it was my big brother Stretch. The only time he has ever had pity on me was when he saw me at my son's viewing. Any other time is fair game for good natured teasing. Walking like a duck because I was hugely pregnant and suffering with pelvic bones that liked to separate; well it was my own damn fault. Should have kept my knees together in the first place. Having a horseshoe imprinted on my 11 year old face and my nose swell up to the size of a hot air balloon, well duh! Who the heck told you to walk behind a horse? Silly girl. Have a straw painfully stuck into the roof of her mouth because said big brother gently tapped the bottom of her milkshake cup? Should have been quicker and moved that cup.

The joys of having an older brother. After he ribbed me mercilessly about my germy house and told me about the joys of handwashing and antibacterial soap, he offered me this pearl of wisdom: Get rid of your kids. They carry disease like little rats. Thanks, Stretch. I would never have thought of that pearl all by myself.

After his dutiful lecture about sanitation and the joys of a kid-free life, he developed the brass nuts to ask me a favour. A favour that would require me talking to my mother. Wow, insensitivity and guilt all in one phone call. How did I get so lucky?

I don't often blog about my mother. Quite frankly, the subject is too painful and I prefer not to dwell on the embarrassing fact that my mother hates me. After all, most families have drama. What makes mine any different? Some how, it seems like my biggest failure; a daughter who wasn't loveable enough to win over her own mother.

Of course, years of therapy, time and some distance has taught me the flaw in that particular thought. My mother is simply flawed. I have made peace with that fact, but it hasn't always been easy, especially with her living down the road. It isn't easy reading other women's odes to their mothers, whether alive or not, and knowing that I have no such words to offer of my own. Mother's Day is brutal, for there is no card that says "I'm sorry I make you so angry and I'm really sorry we can't get along."

Yes, I love my mom. I wish every damn day that our relationship was different. I have tried so hard and made so many attempts my husband threatens divorce if I try again. Because inevitably, I get hurt. My mother simply can't understand who I am or respect who I became.

After years of growing up with her verbal abuse and believing her that it was all my fault, that I was lazy or stupid or ugly or fat, I realized no amount of change would suit her. And giving birth to my own children, especially my daughter, made me question why I should have to. It didn't matter to me what my daughter looked like, says, does or thinks. I don't care if she wants to be a ballerina or a dump truck driver. To me, she is the most precious gift I have. A mini reflection of myself, an extension of the love I share with her father. So why am I not the same thing to my mother?

My older brother and younger sister do not have these problems to the same extent as I do. My brother distances himself both physically and emotionally from her abusive personality. It is enough to see her on holidays and exchange pleasantries with her when he calls to talk to our father. My sister actually lives with her and has somehow managed to find a way not to bring out the inner dragon on a regular basis.

But there is something about me that makes my mother hurl insults at me whenever she gets the chance. Something about my looks, or my speech pattern or my breathing that makes her remind me, in front of my children, that she doesn't like me. She isn't sure she loves me. She wishes she didn't have me.

Of course, two minutes later she denies uttering those words. And then the "poor pity me" routine begins. It is exhausting and embarrassing. My husband and his family, all too often witnesses to such behaviour, have no words and no explanations. They simply hug me harder and offer a prayer.

My friends, often disbelieving at first, until witnessing awful outrages over nothing, are puzzled and saddened. Most grew up with wonderful parents and can't imagine having this type of relationship with their mother.

My children, whom I have tried to shield as much as possible from this craziness, don't understand how a grandma can be so wonderful to them, but so unjust and cruel to their mother. They are at an age where things are starting to make sense to them and they don't know how to make the pieces to this puzzle fit.

I used to feel sorry about this, pity myself and my lack of a mother. I used to spend hours trying to remember one single childhood memory that involved a hug, a touch or kind words or laughter with her. I honestly can't. I have many with my dad, but not one with my mother.

I know I am not the first in this club, nor will I be the last. But knowing this fact doesn't make it any less isolating. Any less painful. Every argument we've had, every harsh word, I pick apart to examine and see where I went wrong. Was it really my fault that my mother didn't talk to me for two full months from the day I buried my son? Could I have been nicer to her at the funeral? I guess I should have hugged her first instead of waiting until the end of the day. But I just couldn't face that accusing look in her eyes, the one that said I failed as a mother and managed to kill the one good thing I had done.

I haven't given up trying to reach my mother. But now I understand, it isn't me. Something within her is broken and is reflected back to her, every time she sees me. Sometimes she can control that rage and disappointment, other times she can't. But I admit to no longer caring as much. Or hurting as much when she tells me what a loser and a disappointment I am. I fear one day I may stop caring all together. And that saddens me.

Because for all the feelings of shame and sadness I feel when I think of her, I know that I am who I am because of her. I am resilient, persistent and humorous because of her. I am intelligent, sharp and I know what I want, thanks in large part to her and her genetics. I am the mother I am today because of the mother she was yesterday. I wouldn't change that.

But I do grieve that mother-daughter bond, especially when my own beautiful daughter comes up to me to simply hug me and tell me she loves me.

How I wish it were that easy for me.