We go through our lives, being the people we are, acting the way we act, generally oblivious about the truest things about ourselves. We know if we’re outgoing or intelligent or prone to spilling things. But few of us know – really know – if we’re impatient or biting or inherently kind. You know who does know all of these things about us?
We like to pretend that we’re “real” around other people. If you’re anything like me, “real” in this context means about half as horrible as you actually are.
When Husband sees me in the morning, I’ve usually been awake for at least an hour and consumed two oversized mugs of coffee. I hear him wake up and am ready – with a smile! – when he appears. I am friendly. I ask how he slept. I offer to pour his coffee. I have the occasional crabby morning, but usually I’m in a much better mood than he is (I have two settings on my morning dial: asleep and awake. Husband has four: asleep, lying-in-bed-but-no-longer-asleep, walking-around-but-not-yet-awake, and awake. The first three are not his friendly place.)
When I’m at my parents house, Mom is always up before I am. She’s in the kitchen, drinking black coffee and working a crossword puzzle, when I stomp down the back stairs. (Yes, if left to my own devices, I would stomp around for a good twenty minutes every morning. I’d do it in my own house if we didn’t have hardwood floors that rattle when I do it. Or a husband who prefers not to be woken up every morning by what feels like an earthquake. See how we behavior modify for others?). When I arrive in the kitchen, I’m sullen and crabby. How’d you sleep? she’ll ask. Fine, I’ll mutter. Then I’ll stomp around some more.
She’s the only person I’m like this with. With Husband, college roommates, even Sister, I make the effort to be bright and sunny first thing in the morning. Not with Mom. Mom gets dark and stormy. And stompy.
I’ve thought a lot about this over the years, wondering why I’m such a crab with my mom and so nice to everyone else. It’s not just mornings, either. If I forget something (which is often), or misplace something (even more often), or spill something on whatever white piece of clothing I’m wearing (every time), Mom gets the brunt of my annoyance, usually in the form of: ”It’s FINE, Mom. I’ll deal with it.” And then she promptly comes up with whatever I’ve forgotten/finds whatever I’ve lost/removes whatever I’ve spilled with one swipe of her deft hand.
I’m doing what we do in blogland. I’m using my particular experience to make a general statement about how we treat our moms. But the generality breaks down when I add this key detail: my mom is a Perfect Mom. Yes, it’s Mothers Day, and yes, this is what daughters do on Mothers Day, they inflate their moms’ egos to make up for all the horrible things they did during their teenage years. But in this case, it’s more than just Mothers’ Day puffery. My mom is, quite literally, a Perfect Mom. I venture to say that there are people with perfectly wonderful mothers who know mine and would agree with me (don’t worry, I won’t force you to do it publicly).
My mom isn’t the doesn’t-even-seem-like-a-mom-at-all mom. And she’s not the hard-charging-career-woman-who-managed-to-juggle-it-all mom, or the Sally-Field-on-Brothers-And-Sisters/I-spend-my-days-making-roast-chicken-and-gardening-and-obsessing-over-my-children mom, either. She’s a woman who’s smart and capable and talented and beautiful who spent a good chunk of her 30s and 40s being a mom. Not just “staying home with the kids,” but really and truly, being a mom. Cultivating my interests. Encouraging my dreams. Showing up (usually with a snack) at every swim meet and softball game and talent show. Defending me when the gossip train came charging through. Learning the lyrics to an Ace of Base song so we could sing it on the drive to school every morning. When nobody wanted me in their Girl Scout troop (long story), Mom started a new one, which quickly became the coolest in town (yay Troop 1485!) She made my eighth grade dance dress when I couldn’t find one I liked. She edited my college application essays. She helped me study for the Bar Exam (she was more prepared than I was, and she’s never taken a single law school class). She planned my wedding without the help of a wedding planner. She spent hours googling “breast engorgement” when my boobs were so big after Lil Mil was born that I quite literally thought they’d explode.
She was always there, no matter where “there” was. And from a very young age, I knew – like I knew the sky was blue – that she was on my side.
Oh, she annoyed the crap out of me sometimes, and I her. We’re different more than we’re the same. But I have loved her fiercely since I was small, and I never wished for anyone other than her. I trusted her and she never let me down. Not once.
Meanwhile, I stomped around the house and left my bed unmade and rolled my eyes and forgot to say thank you most of the time.
Why? Why does my Perfect Mom get the worst of me when she deserves the best? Why does she have to deal with my impatience and sarcasm and early morning moodiness, while everyone else gets the more likable person I make a concerted effort to be? Like I said, I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately. And I think I’ve come up with the answer. Or part of it, anyway.
I never tried to earn her love, because I always knew I had it. No matter what.