Letting Go of Expectations
I remember her hands.
She always seemed to be busy tending one thing or another. Her hands were rarely idle. Apart from that, I remember her smell, that sweet floral scent of my childhood.
When I think of my children, my thoughts always drift back to my mother. What will my children remember most about me? If I could choose, I suppose I would want them to remember my laugh, or perhaps simply my smile. I too often lose sight of that. I too often forget to just laugh with them. I think back to what I deem were simpler times. Yes, to the time before cell phones and computers. An age without Pinterest and social media glaring back at us.
Did my mother ever feel like a failure? She was always so sure, so strong, and yet, being a mother now, I am certain that she did. Perfection is unobtainable, and still, we as mothers seem to demand that of ourselves. Did my mother forgive herself? Do I? I remember the time I yelled at them. I lost myself. Frustrated and tired, I stomped about the room a bit and honestly some instant relief came. But just as I saw their little eyes peering at me in a mixture of awe and fright, guilt consumed me. I instantly thought of my mother. I was mortified. I can remember my mother getting upset from time to time. I can remember purposely testing her. And now I am a mother, their mother. All of my scars and fears seem to surface every time I raise my voice, and my fight or flight response is to do better. That is it, I must do better. I must be better and try harder.
I always admired her face when I was a child. My mother always wore her hair short, and it always accentuated her facial structure. Her face was a mix between Julia Roberts and an unidentified unique creation. My mother was always beautiful to me. Did she feel beautiful? My mother constantly poured herself out to my father and us children. The memory captured from my child eyes seems impossible to live up to, and yet, I can remember her utter tiredness at the end of the day. A tiredness I can all too well relate to. Life is defined by the lens in which we see it. I am realizing that failure is the same. It is defined by the way in which we view it. The media paints a picture of perfection and in a blatant way, it causes us to compare our lives to it. Images of perfectly dressed children calmly sitting in perfectly decorated homes haunt our eyes. We are forced to gaze upon photo-edited woman and we begin to compare our bodies to theirs. It is a vicious and merciless cycle.
As often as I think of my mother, I think of my daughter. How will she view herself in the midst of all of the expectations surrounding women and motherhood? If I had to pick one word to describe my daughter, it would be free, with feisty being a close runner-up. She is that push limits, and boldly run around laughing and singing kind of free. She knows no tree too high and no challenge too great. I can easily recall the way she smiles and laughs. I love the way she tilts her head to the side when she is learning something new. If people tell her she is beautiful she ardently agrees. She still sees people. Not by their size or color. She still views the world in the simplistic way that a toddler does. Things are rather black and white to her. If I could only teach her one lesson in life, I think I would want to teach her to be kind to herself so she could be kind to others.
More and more, I am realizing that this lesson for her starts with me. I want her to see me being kind to myself. How can I expect her to be free from the expectation of perfection, if I silently hold myself to its’ standard. My daughter will fail. Just as I have failed and just as my mother at times failed. But what I am realizing is that failure is not the ultimate down fall of motherhood. Failure is merely a thorn of experience, and experience has a high value. The ultimate destructive cycle of motherhood and dare I say, women-hood, is the self-inflicted assault that we do to ourselves. It is the silent self-punishment we give ourselves. It is the critical eye in which we gaze upon ourselves in the mirror. It destroys my heart to think that my daughter could one day hold herself to that ridiculous standard. I could cry thinking that one day she may hatefully judge her body. But how often do I? I think the road to redemption is taken one day at a time. I believe the cycle can end with us. I think the more we plug into reality and the more we base our expectations on wholesome things, the more we can begin to love ourselves.
I love my mother.
Through the good times and the tough times, I love her. Does she love herself? I love my daughter. Nothing in this world will ever change that. Will she love herself? Despite my failures and my victories, do I love myself? The battle of motherhood, is not merely to fiercely love our children or to selflessly serve our families. No, that is rather instinctual. The battle of motherhood is to learn to fiercely forgive and love ourselves.
Written by, Janell Schintu