It's hours before the official commencement of Mother's Day, and it makes me think about my own relationship with my mom. Every year, I send her the obligatory basket of wine, cheese and chocolates with a 50-character message - and every year, I call her days later to ask if she's gotten it. "Oh, yes.. thank you. I've just been SO busy." We have it well scripted by now.
When you're an adult child who has moved away from the hive, a deeper kind of separation happens with your parents. I have no children for them to dote over, and since I'm out of state they aren't able to invite me over for an occasional Sunday dinner. Because of this, we tend to fall off each other's emotional radar to a great extent. Most people would say, "You're an adult. That's a natural part of growing up, leaving your parents behind." I suppose that's true, but no one ever tells you that they are going to be leaving you behind, as well.
I still take it personally when my mother doesn't call me on my birthday. It still makes me sad when she doesn't check to find out if I'll be in town for Christmas. I'm a grownup who is fully capable of taking care of these things myself - calling her to remind her that I'm a year older, telling her I will be taking a guest room over the holidays - but I'm not yet used to feeling like we don't really know each other anymore, and realizing that we really don't consider each other on a day-to-day, or even week-to-week basis. She calls me a few times a year if she needs a head count for something, but as for picking up the phone to see how I am - it never happens.
Okay... it's the whining woman who can't let go of her childish views of her parents. I suppose that's partly right. My mother was always on my side growing up, when I felt that almost no one else was. She was a soft place to land, and even in the midst of my most heinous teenage angst, I never stopped knowing that she cared about me - that I was important to her. So when that changes as an adult, I suppose most people have families of their own to compensate for it. Instead of having parents who need them, they have spouses and children of their own to fill that role. But for those of us who haven't married or had children, life can begin to feel a bit isolated.
So what do I do? I latch on here and there to other people's families. I've even taken up a profession that allows me to work with children. It's a way for me to feel connected to and in the service of other people in this world. I guess in this way I get to be a bit of a mother to someone else who will one day largely disassociate themselves from me, as well. But I know that what I'm doing now is important. That who I'm helping these children to become will be a part of them that they carry on throughout their entire lives.
So maybe that's what I need to remember about my own mother. Growing up in really difficult situations, she always gave me comfort and love. She always made me feel capable, intelligent and good. She showed me how to connect to other people, and how to contribute to the world. So that is what I celebrate this Mother's Day - and how I find a way to give her a pass for letting things slip between us since then. Especially since I've done the same thing.
It's not just realizing that I don't need her so much anymore that is difficult, but realizing that she doesn't need me either. But she's been someone's daughter, wife, mother.. and now she wants to just be herself. She's done her job and wants to relax and enjoy her life on her own terms now. It seems I am a lot like my mother.