Monday, January 16, 2012


I was clearing books from one shelf to another. I found an old journal with pages falling out. I sat on the floor and read where it was open. It was 1998. Wow. 14 years ago. It was also, I discovered as I read, another life-time ago. My daughter (age 16 at the time) and I were watching t.v. together. I remember how good it felt to sit on that couch in that room with her curled up close beside me ...our time. We were talking. My marriage with her father was close to an end. He and I were divorced in December of '99. So our talk, my daughter and I, that day on the couch in 1998 was about serious things she felt I was never there and her feelings about that. We talked of being present emotionally and being present physically. I shared with her how my own mother was present physically, but not emotionally, and the consequences of that in my life. I validated her experience and told her she was right that I had not been there in many ways. I grieved the truth of how I was repeating what I learned from my own mother. I talked about children having unmet needs with parents and how at the age of 30, after I got out of treatment, I went to my parents and confronted them about it. I told her that some day I was sure she would need to do the same with me, and we would deal with it the best we could.
We talked about ways in which I could be more "there" for her. Then we watched t.v. together. I scratched her back as we sat there watching a movie. She shared fears and beliefs she had about my life and the way I was living it. Many were statements with large questions behind them. I didn't get defensive. I remained calm. I mirrored back what she said. I affirmed her experience as separate from mine. I answered the questions she asked. I remember feeling calm and loving ...and sad as well. I summed up all she said about me "not being there" and "always being gone", all her questions and her assumptions, all her "story" about my actions. Then I held her and told her what was true for me. I answered her questions in an honest, adult, loving parent way.
As I re-read my journal writings this morning, I saw a mother who did some things right ...who did some things beautifully, in fact. I know as a mother, there were some things I did awfully, badly, poorly.
And, there are some things I did magnificently.
This was one of the latter, and I am proud of me. I honor the truth that there are those times I did really well at mothering. I will admit that it is a struggle to let these words remain on this page and publish it. There is a part of me that feels compelled to go on and on about what I did poorly. Not today. Today, I celebrate the things I feel proud of. That day on the couch with my daughter in the year 1998, I listened ...truly listened. No defensiveness, no lengthy explanations. I validated her experiences as hers and rightfully so. I owned what I was responsible for. I worked with her to find healing solutions to what she needed from me. And I was truthful with her while maintaining a healthy parental boundary. My own mother had invited me to be her confidant, her girlfriend. It was not appropriate. It was out of balance and co-dependent. This time for me and my daughter, I chose differently. It felt good, and I am proud of how I stood in that Mother role.


fds said...

"The moment a child is born, a mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new."
This is not my observation, hence the quotes, but I have seen this truth profoundly lived many times.
I myself, upon growing into being a father- which I am still doing, and hopefully will until I die- realized it was the vast majority of what I wanted to do with my life.
I loved reading this.

Linda Joyce said...

Very touching, Julia. I thought about my stepdaughter, I have no birth children of my own, and realized that I cannot not mother someone who refuses to be mothered. I cannot be a friend to someone who does not want my friendship, however, I can still love from a far.

Artifice said...

Julia, What a wonderful reflection about your experience as a mother talking with her daughter! I am so proud of you for emphasizing the positive aspects of your being a mother. When I confronted my parents with my siblings many years ago about my Dad's alcoholism and my Mom's co-dependency they were both still in total denial. I feel good that I had the courage to discuss my feelings with my parents. It is amazing to me that over 20 years later my Dad decided to go detox and go to rehab and has been sober for over a year now.

Love, Linda