On Mother’s Day, I wear two faces.
First, the face of a still-new Mama. Here I am, celebrating my third Mother’s Day with my tiny person. This tiny person is the whole reason to celebrate my inclusion of this day. Every day I am celebrating, I am still learning, I am growing as a mother, primarily because of my sweet tiny person.
I don’t need a specific day to tell me how great I am, or to celebrate my relationship to my tiny person. I do that every day, every moment. And likewise, every day I wear a second face, and am reminded of it so greatly on Mother’s Day.
This is the face of a daughter. This is the face of someone who once had a mother. This is the face of someone who loves, misses, and is reminded of her mother everyday — especially on Mother’s Day.
I don’t need a day to remind me of my mother, to tell me how amazing she is and was, or to celebrate her. The wonder, the questions I still have, and the changing experience of being both a daughter and a mother — a motherless mother — is a struggle I live with every day of the year.
I struggle to imagine the person she would have been at 60 years old. In the 15 years since her death, life has slowly moved forward. In that time, the world has changed. I have changed. And were she to have lived, I imagine that she would also have changed tremendously.
In those 15 years since I last spoke with my mother, I have moved across Canada to adopt a new homeland, my Newfoundland and Labrador. A place that I had never previously visited, never had much connection with, aside from a brief few years in childhood when we had a nanny from Newfoundland. I made a home here, I went to university here, I embraced feminism here, I learned to cook here, and I had a baby here. I became a parent here.
I became a mother, like my own mother. This is a commonality that I would have loved to share with her — the experience of mothering. And this is something that is not taught when we are young; how does one parent without the guidance and support of your own parent? Without your child’s grandparent?
If I had once thought that the birth of my tiny person was the single most formative and incredible experience of my life, I was wrong. Rather, it is the ongoing experience of being a parent that is the most impactful and formative. Each and every day there are new experiences, new lessons, new mistakes, and new parts about myself to learn and develop. Tiny person is teaching me so much about myself and the person that I am, what kind of parent I thought that I would be, and the person that I still strive to be. In every treasure hunt, story time, joke, song, and rebellious moment, I have an opportunity in how I choose to approach it. There are many moments of mistakes. Many times when I have wondered if I said the right thing, if I did the right thing.
And every day, every moment, I wish for the guidance and support of my mother.
Without a mother and grandmother
In parenting without a parent of my own, there are simple things that I miss.
I miss being able to call my mother, and tell her about our day – the funny thing that tiny person did today, the picture that he made, when his first tooth was growing in, or the wild tantrums that tiny person seems to be having this month.
I miss being able to ask her about my own childhood, and how it compares to my tiny person’s: when did I start to walk, to speak, what were my first words?
I miss being able to ask her about her own parenting experiences. How did she handle tantrums? Did she like being a stay-at-home parent? What made her decide to return to work and how did she choose a career at that point in her life? Did she find it difficult to be dependent on someone else financially? Did she like breastfeeding? Did she connect with other parents or did she keep close connections with friends who didn’t have children? Did she find parenthood lonely? What did she love about it? What mistakes did she make, or feel that she made? Did she have regrets?
And similarly, I miss being able to ask her about her own childhood, and how it may have informed her style of parenting. I wonder about her childhood in a rural British Columbia logging town high in the mountains. My mother was the eldest of four children, with her parents fostering many tiny persons throughout the years. Her youngest siblings were still small children when she chose to move away from home. My mother was 21 years old when she gave birth to me — almost 15 years younger than I was when I had my own child.
Our life experiences would have been wildly different at the points of our transition from being on our own to a person with a child. At that point in my life, I had worked as a child care provider, trained as a childbirth doula, attended university for both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, travelled to different continents by myself, and moved across Canada.
At the stage where my mother became a mother, she had lived on her own. I don’t know if she had done any post-secondary schooling at that stage. She had moved to Montreal, a contrast to life in rural B.C. As a young parent living in Edmonton she did not have the benefit that I do today of online parenting support networks such as Facebook, Pinterest, online magazines, podcasts, etc. Our first experiences of parenting would have been so different, and yet there are many universalities about parenting that I am sure we share.
At the age of 60, I wonder what sort of grandmother she would have been. I imagine long conversations with her about my tiny person, and comparisons to when she was a young parent. I imagine reminiscences of summer nights in the mountains of Lillooet, where my own grandfather played the guitar amidst fireflies and crickets, and I played games of solitaire with Grandmother. I imagine her talking to tiny person about her own mother, my grandmother, and sharing her own stories of childhood. I imagine her having beautiful conversations with tiny person, stories about first bikes, debating egg whites vs. yolks for flavour, talking about her fear of snakes, and sharing in tiny person’s love of camping. I imagine her stories of camping trips away, of worrying about bears in the woods, and playing jokes on her other siblings under the moonlight. I imagine that she would have loved being a grandmother, and all the ways in which this would have changed our own relationship.
Longing to share
It has been 15 years since I last saw my mother. 15 years since I last hugged her, had a conversation with her, argued with her, laughed with her, went shopping with her, disagreed with her, cooked with her, had a meal with her, and told her that I loved her. Every day I am sure to tell my amazing, ever-growing, ever-changing, miraculous tiny person how much I love him, and how happy and lucky I am to be his mom. They are words and actions that I long to share with my own mother today, and for every day that I am able, I will be grateful to have this ever-changing, learning experience with my tiny person.
Indeed, I don’t need just one day that is arbitrarily marked on the calendar to remind me of the importance of celebrating mothers. Mothering is the most complicated role. It is complicated by relationships, personalities, dictated roles, gender, social influence, class, to name a few. This one calendar day most certainly won’t be the only time I’ll be thinking about mothers. And this one calendar day, while another excuse to make a memorable day with my tiny person (as if I needed an excuse), is a wholly unnecessary reminder of being motherless.
So I take this day, and treat it like any other day — a day that I learn from my tiny person once again. Where I continue to grow, and to have some sort of amazing adventure with him, perhaps mixed with some perceived failures, because we all know there are those moments. And like every day, it will be one when I think of my own mother, and talk of her to my tiny person. His Gramma, a wholly important part of both our lives, in spite of her many faults and our many relationship errors. Someone who may be gone, but will continue to be important and be part of both our lives’ narratives.
Adventures, stories, and love — not just on Mother’s Day, but everyday.