Yesterday, we celebrated my mother’s 75th birthday. She (and my father, and my grandmother) went through a lot of changes over the years. Born just before America got into World War II, I’m sure that for most of her life, our country has been evolving at a dizzying rate. Just like any other person, she’s made good choices and bad choices throughout her life.
She turned 20 two months after she and my father got married in 1960. He was just 18, and his mother didn’t think much of her. How much of that was a parental response to an only son, and how much of it was control issues on the part of my grandmother, I’m not exactly sure. I just know that Grandma Rose sometimes treated her as “not good enough for her boy.”
But, despite the chaotic change surrounding them, despite the rollercoaster of their lives, she and my father have stuck through it all – committed to each other. This year, in August, they celebrated their 55th anniversary.
I’ve not always been the best of daughters, but I have tried. Just as I accept that while they have not been the best of parents, they did their absolute best for me and my siblings.
Too often, I see people looking at their parents and only seeing the bad, not recognizing the good. It’s very easy to blame your parents for everything that has gone wrong in your life. That because of how they made mistakes in raising you, you’re destined to be less than what you think you should be. And yes, I’ve had my own assumptions that my parents are “evil” just like the rest of humanity.
But I can acknowledge the good they did, and the good that they instilled in me, without allowing boundary violations that have become habitual in our relationship. I don’t necessarily expect any change on their part, it isn’t about them – it’s about me. It’s about me learning to not react habitually to them. It’s about me learning that I can hold that boundary firm.
Boundary habits were the biggest problem in my marriage. I kept excusing every single boundary violation that my ex ever did, because I had the habits of doing so in relation to my parents.
I know, deep in my heart, that my parents unconditionally love me. And I know, no matter what I do, they will always love me. So, working on healthy boundaries with them will help me in having healthy boundaries in my other relationships. Overcoming the habits of childhood and habits of interacting with them means I’m working on those habits of dysfunctional love.
That doesn’t mean I’m a cold-hearted bitch. It just means I’m finally willing to lay down a boundary and make sure that it sticks.
But, to go back to my mother (since, of course, that was the purpose of the post), she’s been a wonderful mother in many ways, and has sucked in others – just like every other human mother since the beginning of time. She’s had her own issues from her own family of origin – some very dark and horrible. Not surprising, as the youngest of 9 kids, she had some fairly difficult issues to overcome – especially since her older siblings were 20+ years older than she.
And as I work through my own issues, I begin to recognize – sadly as I’m older, and after I’ve said and done some things I realize were very hurtful to her – that many of her issues (and the same goes for my father) are the reasons why some of my own issues developed. That doesn’t make it her fault, it simply means that because of issue A, issue B (depending on the personality of the child) is a likely response to that issue A.
Now, as she’s getting older, and nearing that time when I will no longer have her around, I can see the woman behind the mother. I can understand and acknowledge her wounds, without allowing myself to become enmeshed in them. And I can have a greater compassion, not only for her and my father, but a greater compassion for their parents, and so on back into history.
We all make choices – and sometimes we don’t necessarily realize that those choices can affect generations beyond our own. My mother is the product of her family, just as I am the product of my family. There were good times and bad times, and they just created a unique person that I am grateful to know.