Mother daughter relationships are the rockiest kind of relationship you could ever be in. There is a .2 second rebound rate when going from getting cussed out in the passenger seat of the car for changing the radio station to singing along to “this ish is bananas, b.a.n.a.n.a.s” and that it is, my friend!
My mother died when I was 19 years old. If you had asked me about our relationship then, I would have sounded like the absolute worst daughter on the face of this planet. My mother and I fought constantly, and there was a point during high school when I swore to a friend or two that I hated her. But I didn’t know any better. I eventually learned that I actually lost the best friend I didn’t realize I had.
I remember that day very vividly. I can recall the smell of the hospital room and the sounds of all the medical equipment. I remember looking out the windows of the hospital lobby and thinking to myself that they needed to be cleaned. I remember the pattern on the chairs and I remember the blank stares on everyone’s faces. Have you ever been sitting in a room so quiet that the only thing you could hear was the clock ticking?
Though everything seemed to be moving so slowly, I still somehow managed to let the chance slip by to apologize to my mother. It didn’t even occur to me to do so. Yet it was the very first thing that came to mind when they called her time of death. I remember falling to my knees in the hallway and screaming at the top of my lungs. I remember hands from all directions grabbing onto me as if they were trying to catch my own soul from slipping away from my body. I remember grabbing my baby sister, who was just 4 months old at the time and squeezing her so hard in my arms that someone yelled at me to let her go. Though that day was traumatizing, it was the last time that I would cry about it for well over a year. Instead, I just stayed angry with myself ALL THE TIME. My first thought waking up in the morning was how awful I was and my last thought at night was how mean I was.
It took me years to forgive myself for being a “bad daughter.” It was a guilt that took over me in ways that now seem pretty absurd. As I have gotten older, though, I realized that the relationship I had with my mother was completely normal. The older I get, the more I realized that moms have a right to get upset when your only chore is to do the dishes and you can’t even do that without the attitude. I started to understand that her prying into every conversation I was having on the phone was really just her trying to keep a close ear to protect me. I learned that teenagers have WAY more hormones than they know what to do with; I have my 14-year-old sister to thank for that. I understand now that the mother/daughter dynamic was extremely complicated but totally normal. I just wish I had known that back then. Oh the heartache it would have saved me.
When we are young, we are always lectured to be good to our parents. We are told that they won’t be here long and that we should appreciate all they do. While that is great advice, in most cases it isn’t advice that is taken. It is advice that has to be learned. Life throws curve balls and, unfortunately, some of them hit way harder than others. Growing pains: it is a real thing.