My Father died 8 weeks before my 6th birthday, my half-brother and half-sister decided at that time that they no longer wanted anything to do with me, and so my mom was the only immediate family I had. I have long struggled with the fact that my family did not look like anyone else’s, and while I had wonderful childhood, I was lonely. That aside, since really it is a post unto itself, it was wonderful and filled with joy and imagination. As I went through what most would call those “awkward teenage years” I noticed that there was not that much awkward going on in my life. I watched the teens on tv argue with their parents and waited, in fear, for the days when my mother and I would no longer get along. Time went on and my house was where we went in High School to hang out. My mother brought us m&ms and chips and dip and we lay around and watched movies. Obviously I ran with a mild crowd of geeks, all making “good decisions” and not getting into any trouble. They welcomed my mother with open arms and told me how much they loved her. No one told me it was strange that we were so close. Don’t misunderstand, we had arguments, everyone has arguments, but there was not teenage rebellion going on – no “I hate my mother” phase.
And then came college. I made the decision to commute to college because it was what felt right to me. People commented, told me I was doing the wrong thing and I am sure there were those who blamed my mother and thought she was keeping me too close – but she had nothing to do with it. The freedom to make that decision was mine, as were most of the decisions I made growing up. I was in control and knew I wanted to stay home. My hair was purple. My nose had a ring in it. I had ripped up fish nets and combat boots and spent many nights at punk and goth concerts all over Boston. Any many times, if I was too young to get in, or if it was a band she liked, my mother went to. I am sure people thought it was strange, but to me it was normal. When I went for my first tattoo, my mom came with me. That was just how I did things. When I met my husband and his punk crew, my mother bought them groceries and let their bands practice in our home.
Life continued to march on and I married and became a parent. I had run a special needs daycare in my early 20s and had built an addition onto my mother’s home to house it and that is where we lived, and still live. I am again sure that people muttered under their breath about not moving away from home. My oldest child was born and we began to make choices that went against the norm. We learned eventually that these choices we were making were called “attachment parenting” and “natural living”. My mother often wonders where she got me, because I am so “different”. I wondered how I could raise my children to make the “right” decisions in life, to be secure in my love and who they are. I wondered what did my mother do that helped me be who I was?
And then our family found itself at an unschooling conference. And I listened to speakers talk about the life choices that we had made and one of them mentioned how “attachment parenting is meeting the needs of your child.” How “people don’t question it when you are meeting the needs of a baby, but when you are meeting the needs of an older child people question you, tell you that you are spoiling them and so on….” I sat dumbfounded in my chair for I had figured out right then and there where my mother got me. She was an attachment parent. I co-slept. I had my needs met. When my father died, in many ways I grew up very fast, and in many ways I clung to childhood with a great ferocity. I played with baby dolls until I was at least 13. I played with barbies, and my little ponies well past what people would consider “normal”. I spent many nights out to fancy dinners with my mother and her friends because she liked to share her life with me. I sucked my thumb for years. If people would tell my mother I had too many toys, or that I shouldn’t be playing with that I was, or doing what I was, she told them I had lost my father, that was enough, leave us alone. I was her friend and she parented me with love and respect. That is how I grew into the teen who maintained a loving respectful relationship with her parent. There were no crazy rules in my house growing up – there was nothing for me to rebel against. I was never grounded. I saw it in a flash – and was moved and thrilled to go home and tell my mother. It was comforting to my mama heart to think that I could maintain the closeness with my children as they grew in the same way my mother and I had because I too was raising my children in a loving respectful way.
So, I rushed home to share this exciting news with my mother. She was not impressed. When I pointed out similarities, like co-sleeping for example, she said – “that was different, your father died”. Yes, the circumstances that led me there were different, but the results were the same. I came to her bed weeks after my father died in the middle of a thunderstorm and left many many years later, when I was ready. She never pushed me out of the room, she never clung to keep me there. She waited till I was ready and facilitated the process when I was.
Two years later she is still not flattered, pleased or impressed by my great moment of clarity. She still wonders constantly where she “got me” since I am so “different”. But I would like to thank her anyway. Her parenting choices, made by different motivations then the choices I made, raised me in a home where my needs were met and I was able to grow up, at my own pace, into the person I am today, who has had the confidence to make choices that go against the norm in order to meet the needs of my children and raise them in the same loving nurturing environment I was raised in. Thank you Mom, I love you.