My mother often didn’t understand me, but she still let me be me. And that is the gift that she gave me. She did not try to define me. She let me define myself.
Imagine a small child riding her tricycle as fast as she could down the steep driveway straight into the street until a passerby stopped his car to let her mother know what she was doing. Imagine a slightly older child defending her slightly older sister by saying to the bully “I have something for you,” and then mashing a snowball in his face and running like hell. An older girl, crying to her teacher and saying that no, she couldn’t kill insects and stick them on pins for science class. A teenager hopping the bus to NYC with her friends to attend wild concerts. A young woman moving miles away and then more miles away for school, for love, for work, to find her own destiny.
Independent or willful? Overactive or energetic? Passionate or overly emotional? Spirited or reckless? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I was. My mother admired my spirit, but it scared her too. She wasn’t sure where it would take me….perhaps to places she wouldn’t go. But she let me go anyway. She encouraged me to follow my star by stepping out of the way.
I am thinking about my mother, and myself as a mother, on this prelude to Mother’s Day. No other relationship starts in the womb closer than close, but often ends with many miles apart. We grow them, and then we let them grow.
My mother is gone 5 years now. We loved each other, but we didn’t always get each other. And when I look at my own children, I try to embrace her view. I may not always understand their choices, but I recognize that they are theirs to make. They are already journeying away from me to become more of themselves. And I remember Maya Angelou’s words on how a mother’s love liberates:
“Love liberates, It doesn’t just hold – that’s just ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.”