The mother daughter relationship is very unique, as is the father and son, mother and son and father and daughter. I only realized in much later years, more from observing other people’s relationships with their parents, as well as my relationship with my own sons, as my relationships with both my mom and dad were atypical.
Now, you are welcome to correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the quintessential parent child relationships take the following forms…..obviously not exclusively.
The father son relationship is an extremely delicate relationship, which affects boys for their entire lives. From my observations, there is so often a competitive undertone, as the father is considered the son’s ”superhero” for so many of the boy’s childhood years. He looks up to his dad and wants to be just like his dad. In turn, the father has expectations of his son, expects him to do and be certain things, and embraces his son’s perception of him.
Eventually, the son reaches an age where he realizes his dad is not a superhero. The dad becomes acutely aware of this, and suddenly he needs to work a lot harder at retaining his rank of his son’s ”superhero”.
Sometimes, I have seen this manifested in condescending and patronizing behaviour on the part of the dad, just to keep the son ”in his place”. Sometimes the dad raises his expectations of his son (even implicitly), so that the son never reaches these unrealistic expectations, and then the dad does indeed retain his status. Although this causes the son to resent the dad, he will continue to try and reach those expectations, and this could possibly ruin so many relationships and opportunities in his life.
From what I have regularly observed, this is so often the fragile relationship that exists between a father and son.
The quintessential father daughter relationship is, on the other hand, one of unconditional, wholehearted and unlimited love. The father expects so much less from his daughter than his son. There are no egos involved, no competitive undertones, just pure, unconditional love.
Now, in retrospect, this is what my dad’s relationship with me was like. Unfortunately, my relationship with my dad was not quite so typical.
I truly was not aware of the unconditional, wholehearted and unlimited love that he had for me. Firstly, his stern and intolerant personality traits, made it hard for me to recognize this. Secondly, I had witnessed his father son relationships with my brothers, 6, 12 and 13 years older than me, and just assumed this applied to me too.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am in no way saying I did not have a good childhood. This is SO not me blaming anything that has gone wrong in my life on my dad. If anything, he did everything he needed to do….and more, for me to feel like a normal child with a normal upbringing.
Perhaps this is just me processing how much I did not give him what he would have so appreciated. A daughter who idolized the ground he walked on. A daughter, who held a place for him in her heart, as the most important man in her life for an eternity. Perhaps this place has been held in my heart…..I truly do not know.
Perhaps, as mentioned in my previous blog, if I could have one last and lucid conversation with him, and ask him whether he expected more warmth, love and affection from me, he would say….’’wouldn’t have made any bloody difference anyway’’. Knowing my dad, I kind of suspect he would have said that!
Then we come to the mother son relationship. Before having my sons, I always said I want daughters, as daughters love their moms way more than sons do. Wow….how wrong was I? I have since realized that the love between a mother and son is at the very least, as strong as the love between a father and daughter. The only difference, is that sons invariably set off on their new journeys, with their new family, and eventually are not quite as present in their mother’s lives. But the love for their moms is steadfast. Daughters are the ones that remain present in their mother’s lives, and ultimately become their nurturers and caregivers.
From my observations, the quintessential mother and daughter relationship can involve a lot of squabbling and bickering. So, now this leads me to my mother daughter relationship. There was virtually no squabbling or bickering. Growing up, my mom was EVERYTHING to me. I could talk to her, rely on her, lean on her…..she felt like everything I needed to feel safe and loved. I would have killed for her and I would have died for her. I believed that I had the best mother in the world. I felt that if she stopped breathing, I would too!!
It was, again, only later in life that I realized my special, even tempered, patient, tolerant and gentle mom, was also indifferent.
This is essentially why she appeared to be so easy to talk to, patient, understanding and even tempered. But this did not really matter at all, as she was everything any daughter needed from a mother, on their very complicated journey to adulthood!
Also, not having a close connection with my dad when I was younger, I absolutely reveled in the connection I had with my mom.
Now, my mom was also quite a dark horse. She had a wicked sense of humour, which only surfaced every now and again. One did not immediately recognize it as humour, as such humour did not quite conform with the rest of her traits. She laughed at herself with ease…one might even go as far as to say she was self deprecating……again…yes….I hear it….just smile and nod….no need to point out the obvious.
Growing up, my mom was ALWAYS physically present in our lives. We were so fortunate to have had her take us to school, fetch us from school, attend all the sports events…..she was that mom. She knitted jerseys for us and eventually knitted jerseys for our kids. Motherhood was her calling. And the fact that she was not actually emotionally present, was never even considered until it did not matter anymore. Well I suppose it mattered, but by that stage, I was well into my adulthood, and was not going to reflect on issues that I was not aware of when they mattered most.
What she did for her kids, she did for her grandkids, her parents and my dad’s parents. She even continued to do so much for my dad’s mom, many years after her and my dad had got divorced.
My mom was so present for everyone, so obliging, that there were times that my love for her caused me to hurt for her. I often felt that she was taken advantage of, but that was probably just me being over protective.
On accompanying her on all my grandparents’ errands, she would repeatedly say, ”if I ever get like that, shoot me. I never want my children to remember me that way, and I never want to rely on my children.”
Unfortunately, that is exactly how my mom landed up. She suffered from Alzheimer’s in the last few years of her life, and she was indeed reliant on her children. Her entire personality changed. I could relay some really comical incidents that took place, as a result of this personality change, but that would not be how my mom would have wanted to be remembered.
But the good news mom, is that I am starting to remember you as you always were, and hopefully everyone else will too.
I love you. I miss you. I thank you.