On growing up “over loved” and motherhood
3 months ago, I officially became a mother.
3 months ago, I had a rough idea about what motherhood will be like. Sleepless nights. Cold dinners. You’re going to be tripled tired (if that’s even a word).
That’s what my mother told me and that’s what she’s repeating. Day in. Day out. Perhaps that was her experience and I wanted something different for mine.
“Shh! Trust me, pet. Mother knows best. Mother knows best. Listen to your mother. It’s a scary world out there. Mother knows best. One way or another. Something will go wrong, I swear. Ruffians and thugs, poison ivy, quicksand. Cannibals and snakes, the plague!”
Growing up, everyone thought my Disney Princess would be Mulan, purely because I’m Asian. To be honest, I didn’t really have a Disney Princess. Ariel from the Little Mermaid came close to it but she wasn’t quite right either. Chasing after Prince Charming or waiting for one wasn’t really my thing.
Fast forward into my early 20s and Tangled made its appearance on TV and for the first time, I thought — holy sh*t, that’s me.
“Mother knows best” goes the song. “Also large bugs. Men with pointy teeth, and stop, no more, you’ll just upset me.”
In short, my mother is the epitome of the overly maternal, helicopter mother who sees everyone and everything as a possible hazard. Except unlike the wicked witch that stole Rapunzel away from her real mother, mine happened to be the real deal and biological.
I don’t hate my mother. I just find her version of love smothering. When you’re constantly worried about every little thing because your mother is worried about every little thing, it starts to drive you mad. I was a self-imposed recluse as a teen, not wanting to go or do anything out of fear and yet wanting to go and do things at the same time. It wasn’t because I was self conscious or socially worried about what my friends thought of me, I was more afraid of my own mother’s judgement and what crazy scenes she could dream up.
Then I grew up.
I moved out (in a rather dramatic fashion that ended in her having a massive meltdown). I made mistakes. I took chances. I jumped and fell and tumbled and scraped my knee. Although it was scary at first, it felt liberating to make my own choices without her influence.
At 26 years of age, I finally felt like an adult. It also helped that I didn’t talk to her for a good two years. Everything I did and all the choices I made were my own — untainted by her maternal fears.
Then I got knocked up and decided that it was time to see if she had grown up too.
And it appeared she did. Without me, she had to put on her big girl pants and do things on her own. I was no longer her excuse, her shield and fantasy against the big scary world. She had no one to ‘take care’ of but herself. She no longer had to think of me — of my safety, of my future, of what she thought I liked and didn’t like. She no longer had someone to project her dreams, her desires and life she wanted onto. Her constructed version of me was no longer there any more. I was gone.
And then I came back, this time with a grandchild.
Then it started again. The fears. The worries. The second chance to construct the perfect child once again. I am lost to her but the child, the child is innocent, pure and malleable.
I love them both — my mother and my child. It must confound her greatly why I let her grandchild wriggle herself off her mat or wear non-matching clothes. The things I do are not the things that she would do if she was playing mother again.
But she is not playing mother. She already had her turn and now its mine.
You should do this. You should do that. The constant ringing of her voice in my ears as she tries to enforce the image of what a mother should be on me. The more I push back, the more she pushes for me to listen her experienced wisdom.
There are some things she did well as a mother. That I’m not going to deny. But there are also many things she still fails to see fault.
I’m not going to be the perfect mother. There is no such thing thing as perfect. There will be times when my child will cry endlessly for whatever reason. I am mentally prepared for the over-pooped diapers, public humiliation melt downs at the mall, the saying no to overpriced toys and gadgetry, the unfiltered words, the possible bad grades, the imperfect paintings, the babbles, the laughs, the tricks, kitchen experiments and whatever else that comes with growing up.
And that’s the thing — she will grow up and make mistakes, tip things over, trip, fall, scrap her knees and maybe eat some dirt. She will make choices, good and bad. She will learn not to be afraid and if she is, she will learn to be brave. I don’t expect her to be the best at everything so I can gloat to the family or live vicariously through her achievements.
She will not be the perfect child as how my mother tried to make me. Rather she will be my child — as she is and not a fantasy of what I want her to be. She will learn resilience and perseverance. To me, as a mother, it doesn’t matter what she chooses to do with herself or be, just as long as she ends up a decent human being, average or extraordinary.
That’s my version of motherhood, something that is very different from hers and that’s what she still fails to see. I am not here to control my child or manipulate her thoughts so it aligns with mine. I am here to guide her, to assist her growth and provide what she needs to be the person that she will grow up to be.