It’s here. It’s finally arrived. My acceptance card to the “I Hate You” Club. It’s taken nearly 27 years for my membership to be approved. 27 years. And I have to say it was infinitely more satisfying to be on the other side of the application process. Remember how adamant I was about fairness when I was 9-years-old and started filling out the forms? The ease with which I dissected and twisted your words into what I wanted them to be? And how by the end of a fight neither of us had any clue what I was saying, we just wanted to see who exhausted first? Of course you do. And now I understand it, too.
I hated how quickly you forgot what was “important” to me. How you didn’t take in all the little details I shot at you while you were falling asleep on the couch. Now I understand that forgetting is an important defense mechanism of motherhood. If we stored every last piece of child-dictated information, we’d also have space to shelve every hateful sentiment. Only our brains can’t always sort good from bad fast enough, so they shut down. Which means a lot of forgetting.
I hated you for what you kept me from doing. I really and truly thought it was about you not trusting me. Now that I’ve been personally attacked with that very same allegation, I understand that only an idiot would’ve trusted me. I had no idea how the world really functioned. How unsafe I was, and how many risks I was taking for no reason. I had been so completely loved and taken care of that I assumed it was something I did, not something you were doing. I had no clue that “being happy” was directly tied to being protected from the very things I reached for. I’d say again that I was an idiot, but I think we’ve already established that.
I now understand that you weren’t mocking me with those looks of surprise and disbelief. You were actually just shocked at the contradictions spewing out of my mouth, and couldn’t wrap your thoughts around them fast enough to translate them into common sense. Did I listen to what I was actually saying? Because clearly a sane person wouldn’t fight for things that were doomed to failure at best. All those years. All those principles I created. And it turned out that the disconnect between us wasn’t premeditated, it was the direct result of me choosing possible pleasure over logic.
I’m sorry for using the word “hate” so freely. At the time I had no idea what the word actually meant. At 36 I have a better understanding of the sentiment, but I still don’t understand it as deeply as I claimed to all those years ago. But I do know that what I actually felt was anger because I wasn’t given my way. And for that I thank you. It wasn’t easy to stand up to me. I was a reckless menace to myself, and you were the only one who saw that. Actually, I was probably the only one who didn’t see that, but you remained firm, standing in the gap between what I thought I wanted, and where you knew I was headed.
And I’m so sorry for the times when the word “hate” wasn’t enough. For the shuns and the slams and the times I left the room –or house–angry. I now know that it hurt you just as much as I hoped it would. You may have even cried when I stormed off, just like I wanted you to. And felt worse than I ever did. Because your pain was tangled up in a love much deeper than I was capable of feeling. A love it’s taken me 36 years, one marriage, two children, and many losses to start comprehending.
So here I am. Club card in one hand, heart in the other. I always thought that having granddaughters would bring you some kind of karmic retribution. But once again I misjudged you. This card has made me aware of the other sides of love that come with parenting. And I know that my struggles won’t validate you for the years I was tough. You won’t smirk when I share my stories over the phone because I can’t see your face and you’re really good at maintaining that serious, counselor voice even when you want to smile. You won’t sip your tea in the quiet living room between chuckles, congratulating yourself for surviving.
No, you’ll wait to raise your cup of tea until I’m a grandmother and can raise mine back. I’ll bring the chocolate and we can smirk together. You’ll wait for me, right?
Your Properly Humbled Daughter
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