My Mother, My Friend

My Mother, My Friend

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

My Mother, My Friend

The best substitute for experience is being sixteen.
~Raymond Duncan

For the longest time I thought I hated her. I was thoroughly convinced that she was wrong about everything, and I made sure that there was no misconception of that fact. I said the most hateful, awful, hurtful things. Things that a daughter should never say to her mother. I cannot count the times I told her that I couldn’t wait to grow up and move far, far away so that I would never have to see her again. I remember once looking at a map and telling her that I was going to move to Australia because it looked like the farthest place on Earth from where she was.

I was sure that my parents’ divorce was just another selfish act of my mother’s. Why couldn’t she put up with a man who refused to obey the law? Why couldn’t she spend several nights a week lying awake waiting for him to come home? Why couldn’t she just let it go? It had to be her fault, that even though she was married, she was pretty much raising three kids on her own. She had to have done something awful to make Daddy want to be away all of the time. And now Dad was crying and telling us that he didn’t want to, but he had to go. It wasn’t bad enough that we were poor; we had to be a broken family, too. And why? Because Mom didn’t want to deal with it anymore? How selfish of her.

We fought, almost endlessly, through my teen years. I resented the life we had because she was a single mom. I had a lot of responsibility. I spent many of my Friday nights babysitting my younger brother and sister because my mom had to work and she couldn’t afford to pay a sitter. I hated that once she came home from work she only had enough time to make us a quick meal before heading out the door again to either her second job, or to school. I hated that I had to buy my school clothes at Walmart, when it seemed like all the other kids were shopping at the mall. I hated that she had to embarrass me by driving around in an old clunker of a car. I hated that we lived in an old trailer, with mostly second-hand furniture, and carpets that, although clean, still badly needed to be replaced. I hated that Dad wasn’t around, and that Mom was always complaining about him and how, “We would have it so much better if your dad would just help out once in a while.” I hated hearing her cry at night. What did she have to cry about when it was my life she was ruining?

It was a long time before I began to understand everything that my mother did to make sure that, one day, we would have a better life. In fact, it took becoming a parent myself to realize that everything she did was to achieve just that goal. She was often put down for all of her efforts. It’s very easy to pass judgment when you’re on the outside looking in. But each and every time, she pulled herself back up, dusted herself off and kept moving forward.

I once thought that my mother was wrong about everything. Ten years ago, if anyone had told me that someday I would miss being mothered, I would have laughed and said, “You obviously don’t know my mother and me.” I used to think that she was the world’s worst mother, that she didn’t do anything right. But I was so wrong.

With all that she had to fit in to one day, my mother still found time to keep house, do laundry and put dinner on the table every night. Even after a ten-hour workday, followed by four hours of class, she would still come home and tuck us in and sing to us until we fell asleep. Even when she only had one day off every two weeks, she would still take on an extra kid or two so that we could have sleepovers like all the other kids our age. On hot summer days, even if she’d worked third shift the night before, she would load us and half the neighbors’ kids into the van to spend the afternoon at the beach. When we would get sick, she was always there with a bowl of soup, a Popsicle and glass of ginger ale to try and make it all better.

There was a time when I could only hope for a couple of hours with my mother where we weren’t at each other’s throats. A couple of hours that we could spend catching up on the week’s events without me throwing past arguments in her face.

As a parent myself, having been through the ups and downs of motherhood, I have a great deal of respect for my mother and all that she went through for us. I now know that she wasn’t wrong about everything. Quite the contrary, she was right about almost everything. Today, I am lucky enough not only to have the most amazing, strong, smart and wonderful woman in the world as my mother, I am also blessed enough to be able to call her my friend.

~Elizabeth M. Hunt

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