Monday, June 18, 2012
Becoming the Mother We Sought
At some point in our lives, most of us have believed ourselves to be a victim of our parents. Sometimes children feel victimized by their parents’ dorky taste in clothing. Sometimes their parents’ quirky behaviors induce embarrassment. Most of the time, children of all ages resent their parents when parents say “no.”
This is what happened in one episode of Enlightened, an HBO series starring Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, and Luke Wilson. The female protagonist, Amy, is a woman whose marriage failed when she and her husband could not overcome their grief after losing a child. Her ex-husband remains her friend, but he uses drugs in order to forget his sorrows. Amy re-married her work, only to lose her career after an ugly, public affair with her married boss. He dumps and demotes her, leading to a screaming, stalking episode and a long rehabilitation at an expensive spa. Finally, Amy returns to her mother’s home, determined to be a good person.
Each episode reveals Amy taking one step forward in her quest to become worthy and loving, only to be driven back two or three steps after some complication, including her mother’s distrust of her. Amy’s mother does not understand her daughter or her motives, and she seems to disapprove of Amy and her quest. Mom says “no” and “no, thank you” often, leading Amy to observe that she has:
lived in a world full of not-good-enough mothers. Imperfect, bad mothers. But the mother is a child, too. She is a child. [And] I [Amy] will stop waiting for … [her] to be the perfect mother. I will be patient with ... [her]. I will be tender. I will be the mother I wanted … [her] to be.
And that really is the vow every child makes, isn’t it? We vow not to become the adults that surrounded us when we were younger. We believe we will be better, cooler, better looking, better dressed, and more enlightened. Yet we always inherit some of the same imperfections, and once we recognize that truth, we learn to be tender and possess greater degrees of humility.
This blog has been both reflection and vow. It has acknowledged some of what Mother did well. It has offered snippets of who she was, including some of her imperfections. Posts have also looked beyond my mother’s generation, into my own parenting and recently, my granddaughter’s future. With the passage of time, from past to present to future, the blog seems to have come full circle.