“The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.”
– Erich Fromm
Fourteen years ago when I worked at Union Square Cafe, we thought one of the greatest blessings was that the restaurant did not serve Sunday brunch, and therefore avoided the “Mother’s Day” presence: tables frought with tension, silence, arguments, forced smiles and lots and lots of booze.
At that time and at that age, I really couldn’t relate to those families.
Like many other Generations X’ers, I now have a greater understanding for the complexity of this sacred and oh-so-unique relationship.
Mother’s Day, for all it’s good intentions, is a ritual profoundly blind to the complex truths of human relationships.
While the occasion and sentiment can be heart-warming, for some it can be agonizing. If the idea is to appreciate and strengthen a bond, in allowing only one-side of the mother-child relationship – the “sweet” side, we deny the very thing could potentially improve this relationship.
Eckhart Tolle says that all relationships are deeply flawed. Mother/child relationships are certainly no exception and are often marked by a degree of ambivalence – a “yin and yang” of positive and negative feelings: gratitude but also anger, loyalty but also resentment.
Mom’s know us in a way that no one else ever can or will.
As children, for a period of time, it seems as though they are immune to the things we most dread – embarrassment, humiliation, and even mortality.
Then there comes a time when we go from seeing her as an all-knowing, all-powerful, uber superwoman, to seeing her as a woman with similar problems and experiences.
To accept our Mom for who she is, is to acknowledge her as human. When we come to the realization that our Mother is another woman— imperfect, inconsistent, capable of vulnerability and making bad decisions—sure it’s frightening, but it is also liberating.
It is easy to forget that our mothers have their own insecurities, fears and worries that pre-date us. Accepting and understanding that she was doing the best that she could with the knowledge and understanding she had at the time – is not only freedom for us as children, but a gift.
And whatever it was we experienced growing up, our mother’s gave us the miracle of life.
No bond is stronger than that between mother and child. We can either look at it as a ribbon that ties a beautiful gift or a tie that binds and imprisons.