No post yesterday because the laptop was never even turned on. Spent the day playing The Last Story on the Wii. Today I refused to go near it as to do the half a dozen things I needed to do…and naturally have done none of them. Beginning to sense a pattern with my life.
Anyway, today is International Mother’s Day – we Brits technically had that in March, but apparently May also has a Mother’s Day. News to me, but who am I to judge?
As I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, my relationship with my mother is best described as problematic. Things got a lot better post university, mostly due to an epiphany on my side, and for me not being a constant presence in her life. But growing up, it seemed we were constantly butting heads.
There is a quote, by one famous graffiti artist that best describes my mother and me:
“A lot of mothers will do anything for their children, except let them be themselves.” – Banksy, Wall and Piece
(and yes, I do find it a little bit ridiculous that the best description of parenting in my childhood comes from a graffiti artist, but that is neither here nor there).
I won’t pretend that my upbringing was in any way tragic – there are things I resent my parents for, but all things considered I was very lucky growing up. I had a lot of things going for me that others didn’t, and many of my issues come from other sources, not just my parents. But looking back, it’s not difficult to see where life was harder for me than it ever should have had to be because of the flaws in our relationship. And this quote pretty much sums them all up. It’s something that becomes more and more apparent with time, especially as I talk to my colleagues at work or parents-stroke-children at Taekwondo and realise how different parenting is today (or at least, different to my own).
My mother loved me. Loves me. But she didn’t like me very much after I hit puberty. For all of this talk to love being this great power and strength in the universe, I’d argue getting someone to like you is infinitely harder than loving you. Love and hate are so easily intertwined it can actually be difficult not to love someone sometimes. Liking who they are takes effort.
Looking at her relationship with my grandparents, and from stories I’ve heard, some of it probably stems from her own childhood. Get the feeling that my grandmother didn’t really care what she did, and as such my mother didn’t get a lot of attention, for the good things she did or the bad. In exchange, when her turn came around she decided attention was what she’d give her children. Sounds good in theory, right up until it came to negative attention.
If your child is doing something wrong, scolding and criticising is par for the course. Understandable. But when that ‘wrong’ is your child not acting like every other child, it does more harm than good. Especially when said child starts acting out in the highly confusing and depressing teen years. Something I’m not sure my mother understood the same way my Dad did.
My Dad has admitted that although he didn’t like some of my choices growing up, they were mine to make and he wasn’t going to stop me. I think mostly to make sure I wouldn’t stop wanting to see him, or maybe because he understood the importance of letting your offspring be themselves – either one is possible. My mother on the other hand would fight me tooth and nail on every possible subject – perhaps when I was still in the womb she dreamed of the daughter she would have, or maybe she thought I was just after attention.
I’d been a slightly odd child, but it was obvious I wasn’t following the script when I hit the mid-teens. In my defence, I’d argue I had have been a lot worse. Yes, I was a demi-goth, didn’t style my hair or wear makeup, spent a fortune on books, manga and video games, and the highlight of my day was watching a cartoon about heavy muscled Japanese characters fly around screaming at each other. My friends could be counted on 1 hand, and I rarely interacted with them outside of school (in my antisocial teen state I had pretty much decided I only wanted friends for protection in secondary school, rather than repeat the isolated primary years, and as a result had very little in common with them). That and most of their outside interaction included inebriation.
Nearly every other female my age walked into school wearing foundation and straightened hair. Nobody (save a handful of boys) knew what anime was, and spent the days talking about neighbours or reality TV or what guys they had crushes on at the time (and boy was that one fun to listen to). And at the weekends they all met up in bars or outside the supermarkets or in their homes, and drank alcohol to excess. It was a world I had no interest in…but it was the world my mother had been waiting to lead me into.
It was a frustrating time for both of us. She often said if she said ‘black’, I’d say ‘white’ just to spite her. She couldn’t understand why I had a warped view on appearances, or couldn’t communicate with people my age. At restaurants and even at home, she’d try to convince me to drink alcohol in the hopes that I would ‘get over’ my silly aversion to alcohol since I would never be able to interact with people normally if I didn’t drink (and yes, she said this, on multiple occasions).
The saddest thing of it all, was that although she probably thought I was strong-willed and fiercely dependent? I was miserable in my teen years – probably would have been diagnosed as depressed had I ever been checked. Considering events at primary school this wouldn’t have come as a shock – but the one thing that would have given me strength? Her support. Had I gotten even the slightest inkling that she didn’t care that I was different, I could have gone through the teen years with my head held high – because my parents opinions were the only ones that mattered right then.
I got it at my Dad’s. If anything I was a more extreme version of myself when I visited him because he never said anything about it. He took in every outfit, every video, every glass of water and every warped idea in stride. The only thing that changed was the location and the treatment I received for being myself – but I instantly felt happy just being there. But my mother continually complained and argued with my choices – if something went wrong it was my fault for not being like everyone else. She criticised nearly everything that mattered to me at the time, and then became confused when I stopped telling her things.
It lasted as long as it did because at the end of the day, she was my mother. I craved her acceptance like a starving man craves food. She had no problems with my brother, who at the end of the day was a fairly typical boy in every way, but I longed to have her accept who I was, for her to like who I was and be okay with that. I tried compromising on several things, holding back on clothes, biting my tongue when it came to my interests – even trying to show her Final Fantasy cut scenes so I could show her why I loved the games (after the 3rd attempt just to get her to watch one ended with her yelling at me, I gave it up as a bad idea). The result was both of us being almost constantly unhappy with the other.
It took nearly ten years for me to realise that was never going to happen, and that if I was going to be happy, her opinion couldn’t be given the weight it once had. Instead I had to give her opinion the same level of respect as she gave mine. A decision that probably saved our relationship. I’d still say she’s not happy with my life, but she can’t argue that I haven’t made a successful one out of it in every area that matters, and that, she can live with, and so can I.