It’s Mother’s Day, and I’m sitting here alone with my coffee staring at the computer screen. I am a Mother (both kinds), and not feeling celebratory in any way. My youngest daughter still lives with me, but she stayed over my mother’s house last night because I had such a terrible day yesterday that I couldn’t even put on a face for her. You know ‘the face’. The facade we show to our kids and bosses and co-workers when we are pretending everything is okay when we are not so sure it is. And you parents know that the face we show to the younger children has to be even stronger, invincible…Super.
What made this day so terrible is that it involved my oldest daughter. She’s nineteen (insert HUGE sigh here). I won’t go into details—not out of embarrassment or anything like that. I have no problem with exposure (inside joke), but I will not expose someone else on a personal matter, especially if it is ongoing. This is her story, her choice.
And my heartache.
I remember my father always telling me that the worst thing in the world for a parent is to watch their child in any kind of pain. To sit there and know you can’t do anything about it. He was right (Did you hear that Dad? You were right.).
My daughter is not physically sick. Her pain and misery is coming from her choices. She blames the choices she makes on me. Yes, I know, she’s nineteen and that is as common as involuntary breathing. But her choices are hurting her, and I have no say in the matter. And this particular matter is big. Big enough that I needed to take a step back and a break last night. I had nothing left in the way of composure enough for my younger daughter. So much for SuperMom.
Another thing I remember is telling my father that he couldn’t pillow my ass and protect me from everything. That I had to make my own mistakes. Yeah, I was right once, too. And I know that she has to make hers. I also know that, ultimately, her choices really only affect her.
I’m not a perfect mother. I don’t wear pearls, make fabulous meals (my stove came with the kitchen, which came with the apartment) or vacuum my living room in a dress (do I even have a vacuum?). I’m not granola, I don’t have strict rules on TV time, or set tight schedules. But I do, and did, the best I can. And I know that’s all I can do. But times like these make you question every single parenting decision you’ve ever made.
And questions crack the facade.
So, instead of waking up to my 8-year old jumping all over me screaming “Happy Mother’s Day” I am sitting here alone and possibly hung over. Two beers. I’m such a lightweight. I have a headache, anyway.
For once the head and the heart are feeling the same.
I’m extremely grateful for the support system I have. My own mother (Thank you for babysitting!) and my sister who also rushed out yesterday. Thank you to both of you for ‘kidnapping’ my daughter (her words) to give her space and a time to think. It’s unfortunate (to say the least) that she wasn’t so inclined. Thank you to my friends, who let me bitch and vent to them without judging me.
As an aside, to all the young girls who may be reading this: DO NOT let go of your friends. Keep them tight around you, know who they are. Be their friend, too. They become invaluable more each day as you get older. I know if my daughter had friends like I do, things could be different for her. At least a little better. And at that age it’s easier listening to your friends tell you when you are wrong than it is listening to your parents tell you.
So, yesterday was all about “tough love” for me. There’s a reason they call it “tough”. The kids hate it but it’s so much worse for the parents. I told my daughter that I love her, that she will always have a place with me if she needs it. I let her know that she is free to make her own decisions but that I am not in support of (nor will I enable) her lifestyle and her choices that she is making right now, and that her choices will not be allowed to directly affect me or my household (that doesn’t count the heartsickness, obviously).
I’ve effectively let her go. Calmly, firmly. Gave her the freedom to fuck up all she wants. And she is. She took it and left, cursing and threatening me on the way out. Then I went to pick up my youngest from the birthday party I unceremoniously dumped her off at when the shit hit the fan. She was in the car with me wearing a doggie nose, cute floppy ears and the biggest smile and going on and on about the fabulous party and I’m trying not to cry, having a hard time fixing ‘the face’. And I felt guilty about that. I couldn’t enjoy her excitement with her, for her. She doesn’t deserve that. I left her to have a nice night with Nana, and took some mental fuck-off time.
Now, hopefully, I will be able to fix the cracks enough to enjoy a Mother’s Day brunch with my mother, my sister, my youngest daughter…and try not to notice the feelings of unworthiness or the one empty chair.