At the moment, I have a complicated relationship with my mom. It isn’t good or bad, just complicated.
Ever since college, my relationship with mom changed drastically. In my freshman year, she was involved in a dreadful highway car accident on her way to the Freshmen Parents’ Weekend at Harvard. I blamed myself for having failed to convince her to travel by plane, so for a long time I felt guilty and devastated. In order to improve her health, mom left the U.S. for Hong Kong, where she could access herbal medicines more easily.
During my college years, we did not talk much as a result of the time difference and unwillingness on both sides to communicate. Most of the times we talked, mom would complain about everything that has gone wrong in her life, which would bring my mood down as well. I could not solve her problems. In fact, I could not do anything aside from listening, so I felt helpless, useless, and weak. Also, I felt frustrated to be her emotional outlet. She told me specifically not to let anyone else know of her unpleasant situation, I assume out of her usual proudness. That made it harder for me because I had nowhere to purge my negative emotions. Time flew by, and I finished college, drifting apart from her.
After college, I married my boyfriend whom I met in college. Looking back, my decision may have deepened the rift between mom and me. At the time when I decided to marry, I was in New York, so at that point mom still had not met him. When I asked her about her opinions on the matter, she said, “Do what you want to do.” Her tone was not elated, but also not disapproving. I thought she was okay with my decision, so I went ahead and got married. Last summer, my mother and my husband finally met. Since he had to work at his firm, he could only visit my mom on the weekends. I thought that the meetings were short but pleasant. However, it was also during that time last year when I realized that she was probably a bit cross with me for not having brought him to her before. When I visited her by myself, she said things like, “Why did you have to get married so early in life?” I felt regretful that I was inconsiderate and could not have made the transition for her easier. It would be difficult for any mom to watch her daughter “run off” with some guy she had not even met.
Ever since then, with the support of my loving and caring husband, I have been trying to mend my relationship with mom. I have been communicating with her more frequently and have taken up a positive attitude toward her problems, while encouraging her to also think more positively. I hope that she will become the energetic, optimistic mom I have known since I was a child. I truly believe that this will work out, because she is a strong person who can overcome any hardship.
Today is Mother’s Day. Everywhere I look I can spot colorful bouquets of carnations and coffee mugs with “mom” printed on them. I contemplated my choice of gift, and finally ended up writing a Chinese poem about how much I have missed her in the seven years we have been apart. In the poem, I described a dream that I had days ago, and she was in it, her face happy and beautiful, with no sign of stress or sorrow. Then I woke up and realized it was a dream, and felt heart-broken because in reality she was still thousands of miles away.
I really hope that my gift to her will bring us closer to each other. Realistically, I know our relationship can never return to its former state, since I am no longer a child, and a healthy mother-daughter relationship ought to transform over time. That being said, though I am all grown up now, deep down inside somewhere, I am still that little girl who seeks mom’s approval.
I hope that this Mother’s Day can be a new beginning for my relationship with my mom, whom I love too deeply to let go.
Xiao Fu is a writer and English teacher based in New York City. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.