It is a beautiful cycle: that of being first a daughter, then a mother, and then a grandmother.  A cycle steeped in love, understanding, tears, comfort, joy, pain, fear, pride, beauty, and bound by even more love.  Ideally.

When that cycle is broken, we become broken daughters who become broken mothers.

Right now I’m right there in the middle of that cycle.   I’m a mother.  A daughter and a mother.  And never in a million years did I dream that I would be a mother.

When I was a little girl I wasn’t really interested in playing with baby dolls.  I didn’t really like playing “house”.  I liked playing “boss”.  Just ask my brother.  I wasn’t really into babysitting, choosing instead to work in a more career-minded field, even in high school.  I was obsessed with the “real world” and carving my own path and building a life as a professional and independent woman, preparing for whatever stage of life was coming up next.

As a daughter, I have always been very much loved and supported by both of my parents.  They have encouraged and loved and lifted and protected and rescued and spoiled me.  I was punished most of the times I needed to be punished.  I had limits and boundaries and order in the home.  I had an ideal childhood and yet when I was old enough to spread my wings, I was still reckless.

I remember the first time that I made my mom cry.  

Well, it was the first time that I noticed her tears.

I’m sure I had done something to my brother or with my brother that we shouldn’t have done and I’m sure she was disciplining us. I don’t even remember what happened that made me think that I hated her at the moment, but I told her that I did.  And when I saw the hurt in her eyes and the comfort that my dad had to give her because of the stab of my words, I ran.  I ran to my tree in the backyard and climbed.  I wanted to leave.  I wanted to be far away from the hurt that I had caused.  I never wanted to see her hurt like that again.

But that was just one of many times that I thought I hated my mother.  And certainly not the last time that I hurt her.

There was the time she wouldn’t let me wear the huge hoop earrings I had just bought because they weren’t appropriate for my age.  I snuck them out of the house and wore them anyway.

Then there were the numerous outfits that were banned because they were too tight or too short or too revealing, even though they were very much in style at the time.  Yes, I wore them anyway.

And of course there were boys that I liked that she wasn’t ashamed to tell me she didn’t approve of.  I dated them anyway. 

I know now that in everything I wasn’t allowed to do, my mom was protecting me from something I lacked the maturity and perspective to see or understand.  

I was reckless anyway.  

Most of the time when my mom said no or redirected me towards something more appropriate or wise than what I wanted at the time, she would tell me that she knew she was probably stricter than some of my friends’ parents, but that she did it out of love and that one day I would understand.

There is one thing I’ve really just begun to realize about my mother’s way of mothering: she always gave me space to make my own choices, even if they weren’t the right ones. 

Fast forward to age 30.  I was about to become a mother.  I WAS TERRIFIED.  My husband and I were about to be responsible for a life, another human being.

While I was pregnant, the deeper truths of my mother’s love began to unfold to me.   I knew with the first movement of my daughter’s life still preciously and safely held inside my body that the promise of her life would mean that she would bring the deepest of love and the deepest of heartbreak for me.

When my daughter was placed into my arms for the first time and I clumsily held her tiny body next to mine I melted and gazed at her perfect face.  I counted her fingers and toes and touched her perfect skin.  I was in awe of the tiny miracle that I held.

My MessesThat sweet miracle is now 9 years old.  She has a little brother that she loves fiercely.  She is smart. She is beautiful.  She is kind.  She is wise beyond her years.  She questions everything.  She loves to learn.

 

I understand my own mother so much more than I did before I became a mother.  I know that some lessons are learned by being taught and sometimes it takes skinned-up knees and tears to really learn them.

Love, early on in motherhood is expressed especially…

In the middle of the night when they need help to go to the bathroom.

When they simply won’t eat the food that you prepared because it was too cold or too hot or too creamy or too cheesy or too flavorful.

When they refuse to eat at all.

When you are cleaning up for them when they’ve had an accident.

When adjusting their pillows  over and over just to help them get comfortable.

While giving them the space to make decisions for themselves.

I also know how it feels to hear my daughter tell me that she hates me.  Oh the sting of those words.

But I also know the power and the healing behind my words back to her, words told to me by my mother so many times: “I love you, anyway“.

Those are powerful words, even when they are uttered through clenched teeth while fighting back tears and hurt and fury and fear. They are unconditional words.

My children are the closest to heaven that I have ever been.  When I held each of them for the first time it was as though I were feeling the first breath of creation.

I can’t even begin to imagine how my mother felt when she held each of her grandchildren for the first time.

What a beautiful cycle.

My mother has entered a phase of her life that all children fear, myself included.

She is caring for her mother who is dying from cancer.

Grammy is in good hands for my mother is patient and loving and kind. I know from my own experiences with my mother that she is being loved tenderly and dearly and unconditionally and in the way that she needs to be loved right now.

Caring for someone you love can be easy.

But true love often requires that you call upon strength that you simply wouldn’t have if love weren’t at the core of your actions.

Strength that you have to dig deep for…

In the middle of the night when they need help to go to the bathroom.

When they simply won’t eat the food that you prepared because it was too cold or too hot or too creamy or too cheesy or too flavorful.

When they refuse to eat at all.

When you are cleaning up for them when they’ve had an accident.

When adjusting their pillows  over and over just to help them get comfortable.

While giving them the space to make decisions for themselves.

I recently witnessed all of these things as my mother tenderly cared for hers.

Oh how life comes back around. 

I know that at the core of my mother’s devotion during the days and weeks ahead, she will likely utter “I love you, anyway” through her clenched teeth more than a few times.

And back at our house, I’m pretty sure I will, too. 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Collins is a Graceful Mess.  

Living a messy life, full of grace.  

Join in with the other Messes on the Graceful Mess Facebook page.

Follow me on the Twitter: @GracefulMessME

 

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