Did You Ever Think We'd Get Here, Mom?

by Vicky Willenberg
Originally Published: 

For the first half of my life, Mom, we spoke a different language. Mine was built on talk of boys and friends. Yours centered around books and school. Night after night, we faced one another with miles between us as you argued for me to be my own person and to stand apart. You could never understand that all I wanted was to blend in.

I listened as friends shared stories of mother-daughter shopping trips and late-night conversations, whispered in the dark long after the lights went out. Crushes and gossip shared between mother and daughter. Broken hearts and confusing feelings woven in between tears of anger and frustration over friendships turned upside down and the best friend who suddenly became an enemy.

As I got older, the gap between us grew wider. We didn’t “get” one another, no matter how hard we tried. So I navigated a lot of those treacherous paths on my own or, worse yet, with the inexperienced advice of my peers. I just couldn’t tell you. You wouldn’t get it, I thought.

Yet here we sit, listening to the blue jay chatter in the trees above as we sip coffee and talk for hours. Twenty-plus years later, I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who understands me better than you do. I once asked you what changed—how was it that you suddenly saw and understood me? Your answer was so simple, “I’m no longer responsible for you. My job is done, and I can simply enjoy you.”

I get it, Mom. I understand what you mean. The burden of responsibility can be crushing at times. We want so much to do it “right,” to make sure our kids are focused on the things that matter most, the things that will prepare them for when we send them out into the world—when we are no longer responsible for them.

You were right, Mom. And I don’t say that with the petulant sigh and a side of eye roll that often accompanies that confession. I say it with gratitude.

You were right to insist that I look beyond a mirror.

You were right to teach me that the measure of my worth could not be found in the glimmering images around me.

You were right to stand your ground when I insisted I was ready to explore a world I had no skills to navigate.

You were right to refuse to let me blend in when I was too young and too immature to understand that we are all meant to stand out in our own ways.

You were right to stay strong and enforce the boundaries you set, even as I raged against you.

You were right to tell me, years later, that you cried the most on those nights because being “right” was painful.

You were right to be my mom and not my friend.

You were right, Mom.

Did you ever think we’d get here, Mom? Probably not. Truthfully, I didn’t either. But the lens of maturity and motherhood have shown me that there was no doubt we’d get here because here is what you worked so hard for, this place where we are peers and friends and you are the mountain to which I consistently return for advice and wisdom so that I might be half the mom you were.

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