Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite books. It is a book that explores the complex dynamics between mother and daughter, mother and stepdaughter, and daughter and daughter. It is difficult and painful at times, but joyous and uplifting. While a 19th-century novel is only slightly reminiscent of the world today, the story is still relevant. Mothers, stepmothers, and daughters still play very much the same cultural roles.
I think about this because I have to think of my relationship with my mother, my daughter, and my stepdaughters. It will not surprise those who know us that my mother and I have a contentious relationship. I have rarely made the choices that she would have chosen for me, but then again, she rarely makes choices that I approve of either (She voted for Trump). However, she taught me important lessons about people when I was growing up, lessons that I implement today, and hope to teach my children. Love isn’t something that is said, it is something that is shown. It is our responsibility to love and help others in our world. My mother was a darn good Sunday school teacher, and I will never forget the importance of “but for the least of these.” (Matthew 25:40) It was her words and actions on the Crisp County School Board, as a mentor in Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a member of the Arts Alliance, and other things that have lead to my most important decisions. A year and a half ago, I accepted a clinical mental health internship with Middle Flint Behavioral HealthCare. I could have taken an internship in the Atlanta Area where we were living. But, as I pleaded my case to my husband, I kept coming back to the idea that I felt that this was the right the to do, and the loving thing to do. I have not regretted that decision, though there are days that I have wanted to put my head down and cry. You can’t just say you love someone or that you support someone. You have to take action.
My stepdaughters and I have varied relationships. After many years, the oldest and I have reached a level of friendship. I enjoy her monthly calls where she updates me on her life. I have to say that I truly miss her, wish that she could drive, or that I got to Atlanta more frequently. My second-oldest is 18-years-old and we have no real relationship. I will never be the person that she wanted for her father and I will continue to see through her ploys. My youngest stepdaughter is 16-years old, and I love her like I gave birth to her. Their brother, 12-years-old, is 12-years-old. I don’t remember the last time that he hugged me, but I received a Minecraft play by play last week. That’s affection.
My biological child is 32-months-old. She is intelligent beyond development standards. Her vocabulary is amazing. She is fierce and determined. At night, she holds my face and kisses me and tells me that she loves me. Then she hits me with her Kindle and demands Paw Patrol.
People say that they love all of their children the same, and that is a lie. My level of love for each of my children is equal, but I like them more or less depending on the day. My feeling of love dampens. I think that it is time for all parents and grandparents to fess up to this truth.
I’ll finish this off by saying, Happy Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers that do it all. Happy Mother’s Day to the mother’s who are barely holding it together (I’m in your club). Happy Mother’s Day to the women trying to reunite their families. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the women that I have forgotten.