A few weeks ago, I reflected about turning 32. Item number 15 on my list of 32 things I’ve learned in my 32 years was a reference to how it’s ok to turn into your mom. I stand by that. In fact, I reckon I am more like her than I thought I was. Unlike when I was younger, that thought no longer fills me with horror because over the last 5 years I’ve grown incredibly close to my mom. I’ve come to better understand some of the decisions that she has made. I may not always agree with them, but I can appreciate that she has and continues to do the best that she can with what she has.
To get to where I am today in our relationship, I have had to retell the narrative that I used to tell myself about her. That narrative stemmed from some of my most distinct childhood memories which involved a lot of entertaining of big groups, which was not unusual for late 80’s and early 90’s Zimbabwe. She was the perfect hostess and took significant pleasure in catering to guests and in my eyes, playing the role of a Stepford wife. I recall being incredibly critical and sometimes resentful, wondering why we had to pretend to be perfect whilst she flitted around as a social butterfly offering food and beverage to people who would soon get into their vehicles and drive away. I hated having special cutlery and crockery that only guests could eat out of. I hated the weird unsaid expectations, the ones that earned me a look of disapproval when it was business as usual for me. I clearly never got the memo that there was something different required in my behaviour when guests were around.
That narrative evolved further when I because a teenager. I was not rebellious, but we had our fair share of embarrassing trial and error. When I was 12, I remember being teased at school for having underarm hair. I told my mom and despite believing that teenagers should just grow into their puberty, she was on top of it, getting me all sorts of hair removal products so that I would not be teased. We shan’t go into the conversations about readiness for bras! Then I went to boarding school, and with the independence that came with not living at home permanently also came the need for our relationship to change. For that, I am thankful. When I was 14 I wrote a letter to mom stating all the reasons why I thought I was ready for a boyfriend, asking her if I could date. She waited until I got home from boarding school on holiday to explain why she thought I should wait (…awkward). I went ahead and did what I wanted to anyway. 4 years later, I sat in the kitchen asking her if we could transition into an adult relationship because whilst I still needed my mom, I also needed a friend and a confidant. I was 18 and struggling with dating and dodgy friends, so the last thing I wanted was my mom mothering me when all I wanted was to be free to make bad decisions on my own.
Today, I am privileged enough to see her in full bloom as a mother, a friend, grandmother, confidant and Doctor. As my frame of reference has changed over time, I can now fully appreciate my mom in all her seasons and for all her quirks. I know how hard she worked for her family and all the visible sacrifices she made, from making career concessions to raise us, to giving up the food off her plate, to staying longer in untenable situations just so that we could have a chance to break free. I suppose part of the anger and resentment I felt relating to my childhood was because I saw the pain and hurt that she suffered when she could no longer serve her family in the same way that she used to. Because I saw her joy being snatched away, I used to tell myself that if I did the opposite, then no one could touch me deeply or hurt me in the same way.
But somewhere along the line as we evolved, I blinked and missed it. I missed the moment when my subconscious mind found peace and acceptance, and I became my mom. Whilst I still do not believe in special crockery, I catch myself giving Bunny side eyes for acting out of character during the people. I’ve become my mother and I am thrilled about the ever-changing nature of our own relationship and the parallels in our journeys. Of all the qualities that she has, I am so thankful I have her tenacity, her German precision planning and her ability to reinvent herself when the odds were stacked against her with nothing more than sheer grit. My mom’s face was my first definition of beauty, and she is my everyday definition of love. If I can raise Bunny half as well as she has raised me, then the generations to come are in good hands.
Let’s chat! What have you picked up from your mom?
This is one part of a 52-week post a week challenge on gratitude. You might also enjoy reading other parts of this series. Click here to see more.