I tell my mother often, “Thank you.” When I tell her that, she looks at me as if I did something wrong. Then she asks, “What did you do?” or “What do you need?” It used to bother me, until I became a mother myself a decade ago.
Often the dynamic of mothers and daughters is strenuous, especially as puberty and adolescence rear it’s ugly head. I remember there were nights from middle school to the first years in college, when I would be so angry at her–and sometimes it felt like there was no reason or powered by righteous indignation.
“Who does she think she is?”
“I can’t believe her!”
“Why is she so mean to me?!”
“I can’t do anything there!”
“I cannot wait to leave this house!”
I remember my mother had a leash on me I thought (at time) was so outlandish. I mean she wouldn’t let me listen to certain music, watch certain television shows, I had a midnight curfew for Prom and I was a Senior! And, she called me from work to make sure I was home! Yes, I had that, Mom (I was home at 11:50pm, she called right at midnight)!
In the haze of growing up, we often don’t appreciate our mothers as daughters. Sometimes, more than we admit, we see them as adversaries. The gatekeepers of us and the outside world. The woman that tells us, may only ever tell us, “No, because I said so.” And if you were a daughter like I was, you make it your mission to try and outwit her because you want what you want how you want. And if you were a daughter like I was, you know first hand the consequences of that.
I’m aware I have the blessing of having a mother that was concerned, present and made me accountable. I am aware I had the blessing of having a mother that didn’t care how I felt about me not liking her, or liking how she handled something. She told me, “My job is to be your mother–not your friend.” As a little girl, seeing the relationship other girls had with their mothers, I was hurt. I didn’t get it.
When I became a mother, and she a grandmother, and now the mother of two, it all made sense.
- (Young Jenn)-“Who does she think she is?”
(Jennifer as a Mother)- She is your mother. Her job is to raise you. In the raising, the job is equip you for what life has in store for you as a black girl. You have to learn manners, decorum, poise and self-control. You have to learn to respect yourself, your mother and know when you leave the house, you represent her as well as your family. In presenting your mother, you represent yourself. Her job as a mother is to instill and shape. Who she think she is? Your mother–the first person in your life charged to protect you. The first person in this world to know you are more than the world will ever see you as. The first part of protection is listening. So, listen.
- (Young Jenn)- “I can’t believe her!”
(Jennifer as a Mother)-The best thing? You don’t have to believe her. You just need to obey. You need to be able to trust your mother. She has been an adult, been a woman, a whole lot longer than you have been. You cannot be moved by what other people are doing. Your mother is your mother. Right now, all your decisions effect her and her ability to support and protect you. What she is doing in your life now is showing you what is best for you, not popular. I know you want to be popular, accepted and do what other kids do–but you are unique. Ergo, your mother must be unique to handle a unique child. Stop wishing to be popular and just be you. It lasts longer.
- (Young Jenn) -“Why is she so mean to me?”
(Jennifer as a Mother)-I promise you sis–she don’t care. She ain’t concerned. Mothers are mercenaries. The mission is to raise you, to keep you safe, and provided for. It’s not a matter of being mean or nice to you. It comes down to what is needed at that moment; or what the necessary next course of action is; what chastening or reward is best. She’s not being mean. She’s letting you know what your expectations are; where her limits are; where your limits are in response to your responsibility and age. The goal is to help you grow in this area. Your mother has seen more than you think she has, and wasn’t always your mother. She never wants you to repeat her mistakes but go further in your success that she could ever dream. Know what you think is mean, is really her telling you, “I love you too much to let you mess up in a way you can’t repair. In ways you can’t see yet because the situation is unknown. It is my job is not for you to like me. It is to protect you.” I love you isn’t always sweet or smooth.
- (Young Jenn)-“I can’t do anything here!”
(Jennifer as a Mother)-No, you can’t because this is my house. You have to respect things that belong to you and other people. You cannot come into a house you do not known whenever you want. You cannot be disrespectful in a space you do not own. You can’t do anything here because respect is a virtue you will use all your life. Being able to respect people’s things and feelings is something you need to be able to do as prepare to leave my house. Once you learn this, you will be able to take care of the spaces that belong to you. I know you feel like at 15-17 you are able to have a later curfew, talk on the phone as long as you want, and have people stop asking you questions, but that won’t stop even when you get your own space. Right now, respect the rules of your house because you will have to be someone’s mother someday.
- (Young Jenn)- “I cannot wait to leave this house!”
(Jennifer as a Mother)-Bruh! Saddown! You really just don’t want people asking you nothing because you’re sneaky and mad people keep asking you stuff. You indeed have your whole life to be grown. Take advantage of the last year you have at home. Ask questions. Learn how to balance a checkbook. Learn about credit. Figure out what it is you want to do. Your mother is an indispensable resource. I know it is easier to run from home, to start over because you know everything—but take a deep breath. You will miss your mother when you don’t see her everyday. I promise you.
I tell my mother ‘thank you’ now, because she did more work than I know. She was able to be a pillar when all I wanted to do was make my own. I am grateful I had a mother who cares, continues to care, and still asks me how I’m doing. Is she my friend? No. She’s my mother. That makes her a hero.
[Images taken from Pintrest, Google and Success Magazine]