mothers

May 13, 2011 |  Category:   family life parenting remembering

I meant to write this post for Mother’s Day, but it was pretty nice not dealing with the internet or this blog or twitter or facebook for a couple of days over the weekend. I recommend it.

Now that the girls are a bit older, I sometimes imagine what kind of mother/daughter relationship I’ll have with the girls when they’re both adults. Will we be close? Will they feel like they can come and talk to me? Will they feel like I can understand them? Relate to them? Be there for them? And then I ask myself the same questions about my mom. It’s such an interesting journey, that relationship with your mother. My relationship with my girls are still so young, but the one I have with my mom spans 40 years. See that photo up there? I was probably around Claudine’s age, 4. I remember looking at these series of photographs a lot when I was a kid because I made a different goofy face for every picture of this photoshoot. Even back then I wondered why I couldn’t keep a straight face, not for a single photo.

I can’t remember whether or not I’ve told you that I was apart from my mother between the ages of 1 and 3. My mom has accomplished a lot of hard earned, impressive entrepreneurial feats in her professional life. She is fearless in that regard, but she always used to say that she is not brave when it came to her personal life. I’d say leaving your firstborn to come to an unfamiliar country all by yourself when your baby is only a year old takes some balls. My mom is also the most generous, selfless person I know, but if there was ever a time in her life when she was selfish it’s when she left, but I know now that she had to be. So I’d also say that leaving your new family to save your own life, in a sense, and maybe – just maybe – even your baby’s, is brave. Now that I have kids, I can’t imagine being apart from my girls that long and that young. Those are some crucial bonding years right there and I’d have to think that the reasons to leave, not all of which are known to me yet, run deep and hard.

I don’t know how that absence has affected me throughout my childhood, but what I do know is the earliest memory that I can remember as a child is arriving in New York with my dad and pushing my mom away. I remember pummeling her with my fists and pointing to the sky, yelling that I wanted to go to back to the mother I knew at that time, my grandmother, who raised me during those years. I can also remember the very first nightmare, which became a recurring one, that I had as a child probably when I was about 4 years old. I was laying in bed in my room and I saw someone poke their head in my doorway. When I looked up, the face was covered with a brown paper bag with 3 crude cutouts for the eyes and mouth. It frightened me and I can still picture clearly what that brown bag face looked like. When the person took the bag off their face, it was my mom.

Aside from those early turbulent memories, I’d say that my relationship with my mom became pretty solid. She was a great mom to me and my brother despite all the things that went on in our dysfunctional household, and I know she worked hard to hold the family together. We don’t have a buddy/buddy relationship, then or now, and we have never been great about talking to each other about our feelings, but I know that our relationship has always been good.

We’re still working on it though. When I see my mom with her mom, the woman who raised me as a baby, I think about how long and deep their history runs. My grandmother also left her family at some point when my mother was young. I’m not totally sure, but at some point, her and her 4 siblings may have been parent-less for awhile. No one really talks about the past much; my family has always been about looking ahead, so I can only piecemeal the few stories that I have. But what is it about family that makes it easier to forgive, forget and try and repair relationships? I know that’s not always the case, but I see how my mom is with her mom. I see how she is with my dad. For the most part, despite the past, we are all still together.

So now it’s me and the girls. I don’t have any unrealistic expectations that we’ll act like best friends when they’re older. First of all, the age difference between me and Mia is a full 10 years older than the age difference between me and my mom. I also don’t want to try and be hip or cool or whatever. I just want to be their mom. But I see shades of the future as well as my past self when Mia’s in a grumpy mood and won’t talk to me. I don’t know if she’s far too young to dismiss her feelings by telling me “it’s nothing”, but it sort of scares me. Like a lot. So I have to learn how to talk to her so she opens up to me, just in the same way that I have to learn how to talk to my mom. Because no matter what – and this I’ve learned from experience and observation – you don’t ever stop being a daughter, or a mother.

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  • logsylou May 13, 2011 at 4:36 am

    What a wonderful, thought-provoking post. My Mum’s Mum (yes, my Grandmother, ha) died four years before I was born. Of course, my mum talks about her and most often gets upset when does. Even now thought, I find it really hard to get my head around the fact that she’s got someone who is the equivalent of what she is to me. As in she’s got a Mum and she’s a daughter, and she loves her Mum as much as I love my Mum, but I’ll never have a full understanding of that because I never met her. In fact she had her mum for longer than I’ve had mine. It’s a mind-boggling concept. I often think, oh my poor Mum hasn’t got her Mum anymore, but I don’t know what it really means because I’m sort of separated from it.

    Anyway, on a lighter note – Claudine looks adorable on that picture. I love the hair and as for top button done up – way cool.

  • PInk Ronnie May 13, 2011 at 7:35 am

    What a great post. Your relationship with your mum reminds me slightly of my own relationship with my mum. My boys are still all very young so I haven’t actually ye thought much about my relationship with them when they’re older (trying to get past the feeding three hourly, diaper changing stage first) but I agree: I just want to be their mum.

  • amina May 13, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Jenna, I am in agreement with the others, “what a great post.” It is so honest and strong – I can’t believe you that you are willing to share your feelings so openly. On the other hand, I am glad that you did because because many women have complex relationships with their moms, which get brought out to a new light when they themselves become moms. My mom also used to leave for four months at a time for four years when i was a baby, and just like you, I was raised by my grandmother. I did miss her terribly, so did she. While not being certain about how her absence shaped me as a person, what I do know for sure is that I understand some of her decisions and actions better now than I did when I was a child. Thanks again.

  • Renita May 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    So true … I processing a way to find a balance of an aging mother who will one day be completely under my care. Regardless of mood, health condition, past hurts and issues, I know the line of communication will be my responsiblity.

  • angie May 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    i love this post, jenna. so sweet.

  • diamondkelt May 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    I like the last line because it’s the truth. Good post.

  • Vanessa Rae May 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Jenna, thank you so much for sharing this today. I love my mom and now that I have my own children it is easier to forgive the past and lean towards loving kindness. I feel closest to my mom most when she shares with me about her life, not in a preachy way but when she is honest about her feelings, her fears and her experiences that have made her who she is. She is shy to let her guard down, even with me. She wants to appear strong and wise but I long to know how she got to the place she is so that I too may become strong and wise. I had a rocky childhood and she is mainly the reason why, but we move on, we grow, we know deep in our hearts that our past does not define us, nor the relationships we are meant to have as women. Thank you for sharing. You are a great mom.

  • Laura May 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    You look a lot like your mum. For what it’s worth I am beginning to sound like mine! When did that happen?

  • Mef May 13, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    you expressed your thoughts so well. i can relate to most of the post. thank you for sharing.

  • chickything May 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Your mom is gorgeous!

  • cindy May 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    aw… your grandmother is still alive! Korean relationships with our moms seem to be a bit complex especially with the lack of verbalization at times. But you’re absolutely right, no matter how old I am, my mom will always be my mother… she still worries about what I eat!

  • Jane W May 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Part of becomming an adult is realizing that your parents are really just human beings, trying their best, with their own histories and experiences that shaped who they became. My mother and I were never close growing up, but now that I’m an adult we are much closer.She never had a real relationship with her own mother, but she did the best she could with me, and really, that’s all you can ever ask for in a parent.

  • Mariana Veloso May 13, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Hi Jenna. I found your blog recently, but it has become a daily routine for me. I love how you write and expose your thoughts, the way you see life, work, family and the world in general. I’m from Portugal, but I can relate to a lot of what you post here. This is one (another) great post. *

  • jen May 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    wow, your mom is beautiful!
    and this post, so honest. i’m so amazed at how people can pour their heart out in such a public forum that sometime i feel like shouldn’t be reading such a personal story so thank you for sharing.
    my story is not so different. relationships with parents especially with moms are so complicated. i’m still trying to figure it out with my mom and at the same time worry how it will turn out for me and my kids.

  • andree July 14, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Ahhh, Korean outfits! I am 1/4 Korean, (+ a bunch of other stuff) and my mom would make my sister and I wear those same dresses for Halloween. Growing up in a rural all white town made it hard for us to not get teased for bringing kimchi to school for lunch. Although, now that I am older and living in a city that accepts diversity this photo and my Korean background makes me feel warm. Great photo!

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