You were there my entire life, but I never saw you.  As you are, without the layers of expectations of motherhood piled upon you.  I took for granted until I was 37 that you were a person. Someone separate from the role that was defined by you giving birth to me.

I didn’t realize that you were an individual with hopes for your future and mistakes from your past. I only saw how those things related to me, and my own anxieties.

I am sorry.

Mother and Daughter 1993

37 year old mother and 16 year old daughter 1993

I’m sorry for holding the handful of times you disappointed me as a weapon and evidence of your shortcomings. I’m sorry for not recognizing that faults and flaws are what make you human.

I expected the unattainable perfection of June Cleaver and other TV moms who are one dimensional fictional characters. TV never shows those women calling in to miss work to take care of a child with the chicken pox, and what that sacrifice means as a single parent.

Or time spent repeating spelling words in the car on the long drive to school.

Or hours spent helping me clean my room.

Or helping me focus to write a president report on William Howard Taft that I didn’t tell you about until 15 minutes before bedtime the night before it was due.

Real women have fears and flaws, and lose their patience with their kids sometimes. I know that now, because I am a real woman too.

I’m sorry for judging your life decisions and parenting choices against what I would have done, without recognizing that we are different people. The perspective of adulthood is different. I am thankful that most of the reason I have become who I am, is because of you, and your example.

Christmas Day 2013, you asked me what was wrong as my anger grew. Finally, I screamed at you. On Christmas, I unleashed over three decades of pain I had been holding inside. I called you selfish, and listed all the ways that you had disappointed me. I told me how you failed me as my mother.

A litany of perceived shortcomings.

You were calm, and looked at me with compassion that only my mother could, and said, “I’m sorry you feel that way, Jennifer. I love you.”

After that moment, my eyes were opened.

I finally saw who you were and who you are, Mom.

I’m sorry for waiting so many years into adulthood before I really saw you as a person. I acknowledged how difficult it must have been for you married at 19, a parent at 20 and divorced with two kids before 24. You must have been unsure of who you were, but responsible for two other people.

I know how hard it still is for you now, alone and caring for aging parents.

I see you, Mom, and I love you.

Time as a parent has brought me greater appreciation and understanding of the unseen sacrifices of motherhood.

Cairns of neatly folded laundry.

I look at my sons, and recognize that someday, they will probably feel frustration about my choices. They might carry disappointment into adulthood about my mothering.

My children may not recognize or appreciate my motherly sacrifices. They may not see me as a woman apart from my role until well into adulthood.

But now I know, once you really see your mother as a person, the beauty of her sacrifice is overwhelming.

Genealogy Jen’s Challenge of the Week-  Journal or write about- What did you expect from your mother? Were your expectations met? Why or why not?

Bonus Points- What is the greatest lesson your mother taught you?

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