Hard Truths About My Mothering
I leave Thursday to see my son at boarding school. I am excited to see him but also nervous. It is so odd to have raised him since birth and now be a complete stranger to his daily life. I feel so disconnected from him. So distant. He moving forward in his own life and me only a distant observer.
I also find myself fearful of never being able to bridge the gap again. Fearful that we won’t have anything to say. Fearful that despite all the change, we remain at odds with each other. What ifs are ruling my internal landscape.
I love my son but I worry about him. I worry about me. I worry that no matter what, we can’t bridge the distance because we both are forever tied to the past. The not so great past. Each with our own trauma and each struggling to heal. I am fearful today and that doesn’t feel great at all.
Sometimes I feel so caught between what I believe I am supposed to feel as a mother and what I actually do. The love is ever present but the liking isn’t always there. How hard is it to admit that you don’t always like your child? What kind of mother says that? Owns that sometimes she finds her own child incredibly challenging, and that somedays she just doesn’t feel up for the challenge?
We have made so much progress. He has made so much progress so it kind of shocks me to be here right now, swelled up with fear. We are better. He is better. But the past gnaws at me, like a tiny rodent set on ensuring instability to the seemingly shrinking tether that binds us together. I am afraid that though everything is different, not enough has changed. I am afraid that I will feel the same, that my part of this whole mess will not be changed enough for him to find compassion and love and me to find comfort and ease. Are these things too lofty to expect?
I love my son and I know that he loves me. But our ability to get along together has always been strained. Is that even true? I am not sure. I think there was a time where we just loved each other, free from all the shit that our personalities heaped on top of us. I think I can remember that time...I am going to do my best to conjure up that feeling so that I can pull forth the love that has always existed and make that the most important thing to communicate on this visit. How much I love him while not losing sight that I also love myself.
I think that is what is still wrong in our relationship...that me taking care of me, somehow erodes his confidence in me as his mother. That anything that I do for myself, an affront to him and his needs. I have so very often just needed two minutes to regroup, and he unable to give me that. I have asked for it, screamed for it, cried for it and begged for it. And all to no avail. His need to get to me and get his needs met always more important than my stated need for a break.
While there is no danger this trip that we will spiral into the past’s ugly argument and attendant drama, I still worry that I will feel the need to assert myself and that will be ill received. That my needs will clash with his...again...still.
So I guess that is what I am fearful of...that I will have needs that will be contrary to his. That I am mother and I will need something that is absolutely the opposite of what he will need. Who wins then? Whose needs get met? I have tried it both ways, stifling my own needs in order to meet his and honoring my own needs and leaving his temporarily unaddressed. Both ways sucked and resulted in damage to us both. How to craft a new narrative where we both can be responsible for our own needs...and how to rectify that with my role as his mother.
Mothering is hard. Way harder than I thought it would be. I have frequently not been up to the task but mothering is a task that you cannot put off or delay. Your children come for you like relentless beings of love and need. And you are expected, in fact commanded, to rise to the occasion every time. I have done my best and I have failed...repeatedly. I will never stop trying but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was tired. Oh so very tired. Strung out between loving and longing and needing and providing. Never being completely sure where he stopped and I started. Before him, I was always so sure of my own outer boundaries.
Being a mother is an endless search for the thin margins of yourself that are leftover when your children grow up. The tasks of early mothering so great that the two beings appear to merge. You become ill defined and lose yourself in the endless work that is required of good mothering. The children also lose their edges in the long shadows cast by “good” mothers. And they struggle and sometimes maim in their inevitable growth into their own personage. Each one tethered to the other, forever, but needing different things at different times. Always a shapeshifting dance between need and love...never really feeling like you get it right. If there is ever really a right...
So I begin to cross yet another bridge that I didn’t see coming. Another letting go, another truth to be told that is less than flattering. I love my child but I worry that I am unable to give him the me he desires. It feels like he needs someone other than me, that me showing up as myself will always and forever be deficient. Even as I pull back into myself, I desperately search my interior for the mother he wants and needs and, so far, I can’t seem to find her anywhere.
So I have no choice but to show up as myself. Deficiency raining down all over...since it is November in Montana, my mother rain shall likely turn to snow, cold perhaps but lovely as I attempt to bring beauty to the new homestead of his life. I doubt that it is what he needs. I being way too cold and distant. I think he would more like a summer mother whose love is warm and breezy. I will do my best but I have to admit at the outset that I lack my own belief that I can ever be other than I am. And that seems to be the issue - he needs me to be someone else...and for the life of me, I do not seem to be able to be her. Try as I might, wish as I will. I am humbled by my own inability to be exactly what he needs.