Making Mother’s Day memories, without a Mother

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Lauren (22) and Caitlin (15), my blondes

 

It’s hard to miss the ominous presence of the love and celebratory preparations for Mother’s Day, if, like any other person, you have gone into a store or mall recently. Everywhere I look, there are flowers in pretty bouquets, banners welcoming shoppers eager to spoil their mother, and special menus popping up in all of my favourite restaurants. May 14th in the US will see yet another Mothers Day pass by, where I do not have my mother to treat, take out, or visit.

Mothers do not have to have passed on, like my own has, in order to be absent from your life. Sadly, there are many stories going untold, that leave women hurting everywhere. Emotions are usually far from happy and joyous on this day for many of us, and for me, it took a long time to learn how to live through a day that so many are enjoying, while I felt lonely and isolated.

I am a mother myself now, but being a mother, and being MOTHERED are two very different things. I also had a stepmother for a beautifully brief period of time, but that too, doesn’t replace the void I feel.

I learned to live through this day and find ways to still make it beautiful, and to honour my mum, so that I wasn’t sad and weepy, or jealous, like I was many times during school when I was a child. The obligatory craft making that ensued in the run-up to this day, often left me feeling miserable.  I couldn’t fill in the blanks on the teacher made cards with what colour she liked, what made her happy, and what I loved most. To me, those precious memories were in my heart, and with her gone, they simply didn’t translate onto paper and glue daffodils with the ease my classmates displayed.

I remember a beloved art teacher telling me once to make my gift for someone else. My grandmother was often the recipient of endless “motherless day” crafts I made. As an adult, now that she, too, has passed on, I am looking at mothers day in other ways to avoid the grief and pain that always slips into my current pleasant life, every time this day approaches. I’m sharing some of these things here.

  1. Place a photograph of your mother/motherly figure, somewhere in the open, and light a favourite candle. Reminisce with those around you, and share a special story, or talk openly about what you miss. I often find that sharing positive feelings and stories helps keep my mum near, and lets my husband and daughters get to know her.
  2. Buy some flowers from the array of beautiful displays for sale. Then either keep them or give them to a special woman in your life. I don’t need a special day to have something beautiful in my home, to enjoy, and to love. Also, there are many women I know that can be made to smile in presenting THEM with something special too. I know many ladies feeling lonely, or who are childless, and I love to bring a little light to someone else. I think my mother would have loved this.
  3. Enjoy being treated nicely by those in your life who love you! Whether that’s a husband or partner, children, nieces and nephews or siblings. Allow people to treat you and do nice things for you, because you are so special to them! Again, there is a diffference to being mothered, and being one, but Ive definitly loved my early morning mothers day raps, homemade “lovebots’, funny made by hand cards, and many days worth of burnt toast and ketchup sandwiches in bed ( a long story!), that my children “treat” me to.
  4. Turn the day into a new celebration! Invite friends over, or family members, and people who are spending the day alone, or not celebrating others. Make it about love and friendship, and a gathering. It doesn’t have to be limited to mothers. This way, you are bringing together a little tribe of people, and starting new traditions.
  5. Music always ignites emotions, so load up a playlist on your device or phone, and get into your car and drive. Cry, laugh, grieve, miss her, remember her, and spend time alone (with her). It is ABSOLUTELY ok to NOT BE OK. It IS hard, and setting aside some time to privately mourn and think about things you wanted to say, seasons she has missed, or joys she didn’t get to encounter, is understandable and normal.  You are not alone in doing this.
  6. Start a small collection. I used to think of my mother when I saw a lighthouse. On her birthday and mothers day I would seek out little ornaments or memorabilia, and buy them as a “gift”. This way she was around me all the time, and I always had the intention of sharing these with my children one day. Or, make a donation as a gift, each year, to a charity she liked, or one that would be a cause in her memory. I even want to buy a star, and name it Elizabeth, after my mother, a perhaps silly to some, but positive way, to have her in my “universe” again.
  7. Lastly, don’t be alone the entire day. Do something that will bring you happiness. See a film with an available friend, go to the beach, enjoy a show. Do something that will surround you with laughter and fun, excitement and life. I have done this many times when I feel lonely. It truly helped remind me that I am still here, and still meant to truly live my life!

Mothering On.

Mothering On.  I have to.

I have teenagers. Well, I call them both teenagers and in all reality, my oldest daughter is 22, and my youngest is 15. However just like your babies are always your “babies” until they get car keys or some other social right of passage that makes them no longer satisfied with Sophia The First, My girls will always be teenagers, until the day they are in a wedding dress, and I have no choice but to admit they are women.

So, I have teenagers. Those three words alone probably ignite some nods. Some “oh wow”’s. Perhaps a few “you poor thing”’s. Even a few “gosh you’re so lucky you don’t have to change diapers anymore”. I can in fact, from those in “the teenage know”, hear wine pop as they consider their own teens at home. They too, are probably mumbling from a distant bedroom, that they don’t “get” what life is like. Or that we parents are so mean. Or too strict. (I am right now getting texts from my true teen, telling me how unfair regulations on her wifi time is, and that NO OTHER PARENT in the realm of this universe does that.)

Sometimes, I.NEED. A. BREAK.

Here is where it would be normal, as they bicker over computer usage, brow gel and who took what out of whose room without permission, to call my mother. To get that wiser older motherly loving advice. The kind that breathes a sigh of relief all over me, as I foresee a weekend at grandma’s for them. As I sleep (catch up on laundry), have a date night (catch up on the DVR’d shows), or have some time to myself (catch up on netflix).

But, I can’t call anyone up. No one is at the end of a text. No contact in my phone is listed as “Mum”. My mum has passed on. She has been gone for a very long time. In fact, she didn’t even see ME as a teen.

So I begrudgingly reconnect the wifi and settle the naked makeup palette dispute, and assure my drama queen of a strong willed girl that there are MANY mothers out there just as mean as me, and one day she too will be shutting wifi off herself. Of course, she tells me that she will never be doing that because she knows all too well how it feels and how important it is to contact important people. Oh Caitlin, if only you knew.

My important person IS my mum. SHE would have assured me I am doing great. She would have no doubt taken her grandchildren, the oldest of whom is only 4 years younger than she was when she left this world. I know she would have. She would have done this so I could not lose my patience. So I could remember all the cute baby things. Remember the laughs and smiles and frequent hugs and kisses, and returned to my girls refreshed. Or, at least have a few piles of laundry washed and be up to date on Grey’s Anatomy. So I could MISS them.

Instead, I pour myself a glass of wine, and I miss her.

I.MOTHER.ON.  I have to.

I have NO choice. I mother alone. There IS no one but me for this. There is NO ONE to pick up the slack.

So, I.TAKE.A.BREATH

Sometimes it feels like my patience and sanity held hands, and ran away. Sometimes it gets too hard understanding teenagers. Both in a humourous way, and in a generational gap sort of way! I personally think this happened somewhere between the overplaying of “Juju on that beat”, the social trending of the Kardashian/Jenner sisters, and the delivery to my door of a package, for my daughter, that included butt enhancement cream and her first pair of spanx. *Note to self, and parents like me: Buy store specific gift cards! Do not leave your child to the wonders and splendours of online ordering with plain old Amazon or Visa cards.  

 

Parenting teens has opened my eyes to what I think I could have been like under “normal” childhood circumstances. Growing up without a mother is unlike any of the experiences that my other friends shared. I was the receiver of hand me downs from boys. The girl with the dad-given haircut. I was both under-parented and naive, and yet simultaneously mature and thoughtful for my age. I missed out on many things and grew up way too fast. I try to avoid this happening to my own children. I never wanted for them to lose this period of “freedom” they are in, where they do not feel they HAVE to take on every household chore, or be absolutely independent, and make ALL of their own decisions.  I feel this is a brilliant and selfless thing for me to do! I mean, what teen doesn’t want their mother to continue to do their laundry, and call the doctor for them, or tell them what to do and advise them in every situation? It is not only selfless of me, but I realised along the way it was dumb of me. It was a mistake in my parenting choices. I see that in hindsight, and where I, maybe, left them some of my own naivety. Especially with my oldest, whom I didn’t want to see struggle with the burdens that I had to shoulder at her age. I got better by the second child. My guess is my hypothetical 3rd, 4th and 5th children would have been utterly amazing!  Not that my two are not. I just would have been better.

Still, I have learned to rethink what I am doing. To not only consider WHAT I would like to see in my daughters, but what I  would have liked to have seen in me at that age. I think about what I feel “normal” mothers would have done, and what I missed out on. Often this leaves me having to say I’m sorry. Usually, that apology is to MYSELF. I did not get to grow up in a typical home, so I am not going to parent in a typical form. I need to accept that. I need to forgive myself. I need to keep learning. I do not want my girls to think that if you make a mistake, or choose a style of parenting/discipline/path that is not “in”, or not “normal”, that you are somehow not a vital part of this world. That you are not “normal”.  I am. They are. We are.

The best thing I have found I can do for myself is to go on, mother on. Accept the challenge that has befallen me, and rise to it. I also like to keep what little I have of my own mum, very present. Aside from her name tattooed on my wrist, and the one picture I have of her framed, my girls are both very aware of who she is to me. Of what their grandmother is to them. I keep her present. My youngest daughter has even told me she would use that name as a middle name for any future daughter she would have.

 

Someone does not need to be around, for them to be known. She, too, goes on, mother’s on. 

If you find yourself in the midst of Mothering On. In going on without your own mother around, or parenting without help, I invite you to join my new community, where we can share stories, and be compassionate towards our tribe, as we struggle through this together. Whatever your own personal story is.

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Still working on filling frames…Personal

Following a previous post I had written, about making sure my own personal frames could be full of pictures, with ME actually IN them, I have slowly but surely been working on feeling comfortable in front of the camera.

Having no photographs at home of me as a young child or baby, and having none at all of me with my mother at all (who died very young), I really need to keep making sure I am leaving some pictorial memories behind for my own daughters. I will have a blog dedicated to my mum, Elizabeth, next month because I plan on doing something special in honor of her May birthday, so watch for that, especially if your own mother, and pictures with her, matters to you like it does me.

Being that I am now in my last year of thirty-something, and dreading the downhill slope of aging, I decided to do something fun, sassy and new with my comfortable and faithful dark hair, by adding more fun layers and bold red highlights to it! A colour like that meant for me that I had to really own it! So, I decided to have new head shots done. Not just ones where I sit and smile real wide and fake, as is the norm for myself. I wanted to show me. And the perfect opportunity came two days after my new look had been adopted, in the form of my friends and fellow photographers Erica of Hildebrandt Photography and Crystal of Crystal Reyns Photography, and our lunch date!

We hit Virginia Beach Town Center on a cold blowy day, determined to get head shots that would make me feel young and beautiful! lol. Well, the shots are gorgeous, because Crystal has a way with posing you, and my hair is definitely something of a stand out! Despite the wind, and the cold, I had such a fun time with these two ladies! Its great to have good photographer friends. I swear I see too many wrinkles and at least 9 gray hairs, but, Im getting there, getting more friendly with the lens of the camera. Are you?View More: http://crystalreynsphotography.pass.us/debbie-headshots View More: http://crystalreynsphotography.pass.us/debbie-headshots View More: http://crystalreynsphotography.pass.us/debbie-headshots View More: http://crystalreynsphotography.pass.us/debbie-headshots

A HUGE Thank you to Andra, now at Blush Beauty Bar, for my sassy look!