My whole life you always said you were not my friend. You said it wasn’t your “job” for me to like you. You said you had your own friends and I had mine.
When I was younger, that seemed so mean, and until I had kids, I really didn’t understand what you meant. But I do now. Mom, you are not my friend. You never have been, and you never will be. You are my mom, and that’s exactly what I need you to be. You’re right: I have my own friends, lots of them.
But I only have one you.
I learned a lot by watching you in the last 42 years. I was in elementary school, watching you study for college classes and manage the household while dad traveled. Through that, I was inspired to work hard, and I began to understand that balancing work, school and family was indeed possible.
When I was in high school and college, I watched you sacrifice your time working late shifts and every possible bit of overtime at the hospital so that my sister and I could go to camp or get our first cars or have the prom dresses of our dreams.
You were there to hold me when I needed it and comfort me when I was sad. You showed me how to have fun, how to REALLY celebrate the holidays, and to love unconditionally, no matter what.
You taught me to cook, to balance a check book, to laugh at myself. (But you never did teach me to iron. I think you secretly liked that chore too much to share it. And it shows – to this day, I’m really bad at ironing… Thanks, mom.)
Along the way, I think I taught you a few things, too, like it’s safe and convenient to shop and bank online; a good masseuse has seen better and worse bodies so just put on the dang towel and enjoy the darn massage already; and the peacefulness that comes from practicing yoga. I also taught you that it was okay that I lost my hair during chemo – I’m sorry you cried when I lost my curls, but it gave us a chance to see what a good job you did “shaping” my Gumby head (your words, mom) when I was an infant.
It’s been a wild ride in the last few years. You were widowed after almost 40 years of marriage. Eighteen months later, I was widowed, too. You’ve dealt with some major health issues. So have I. We’ve laughed a lot. We’ve cried a bit. We’ve always gotten through it. We’ve stuck together. We’ve become quite a team, you and I.
But we’re still not friends.
Together we’ve become resourceful, capable women. We’ve driven more than a 2,000 miles roundtrip in a minivan with two kids who do not stop talking. We’ve learned to use chainsaws, fix toilets, deal with phone scams, buy houses and cars, and vermin-proof our gardens (well, kind of, except for those pesky deer).
And now the biggest gift and challenge: you’re helping me raise my kids. Neither of us saw that coming, and I know you didn’t plan on spending your retirement years running kids to/from school or helping with handwriting and algebra and research papers. But I’m so incredibly thankful you’re part of our daily lives. I love watching you teach Lauren to sew and teach Ethan to fish. (Both are skills I’d never attempt on my own, let alone teach kids.) I love how both kids get excited when they get to spend the night with you. Of course, it might be because you let them bend the rules: staying up late, finger painting and Play Dough in the living room, watching a little more TV or iPad time than I allow, getting dirty…
They love you so much. And so do I.
I just wanted to tell you that you were right. We’re not friends. You’re my mom. We are a team. I love you. I appreciate you. And I thank you for everything.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom. Let’s never be friends.
P.S. Please teach my kids to iron. Then maybe they can teach me.