My mom is still alive. I want to lead with that since the title might be deceiving to some. The loss I’m speaking of is a different kind of loss. It’s a loss that comes from change. And folks, change is scary and ugly and wonderful all at the same time.
On many occasions, my mom and I have been told that we look like twins. Personally, we don’t see it, but we just go with it because we love the comparison and sometimes we feel like siblings. We’ve always been thick as thieves. Ever since I was young, we’ve had one of those special, rare relationships that I don’t see very often between a parent and child. Perhaps it is because I’m an only child and perhaps it is our personalities, but either way, my mom is my best friend. We talk on the phone 2-4 times per day. When something exciting happens in my life, she’s the first one I call. When something is too much to handle, I call her to hear those calming words: “You can do this, Mari. I know you can.” When I was little, she played with me and taught me how to use my creative mind to solve problems and have fun. As I got older, she was my role model: a kind, creative, fun woman who loved her husband, her family, and her garden. In adulthood, she became my friend. I still learned from her, but now we were equals. We shopped for my first house together, exchanged recipes, and laughed about life.
And then I became a mother…and I lost mine.
As I mentioned above, she is still alive and doing well. I didn’t lose her in a physical sense. But, I did lose the mother-daughter relationship I had with my mother for years and I won’t ever get it back. I see glimpses of it here and there when we chat on the phone and visit each other in person. Sometimes it surprises me at random moments and I smile, thinking back to when I didn’t have two kiddos running around, taking up my every moment and thought. But, for the most part, it’s gone. I didn’t realize it left when I had my first child and I noticed something was off. Not only had my body and mind changed, but my mom had changed. I constantly felt this low-lying irritation when I would speak with my parents on the phone. I was quick to snap at her when it came to parenting advice.
Something was wrong and I was devastated. What had happened to my mom? Was she jealous? Had her personality changed?
Since my relationship with my mother has always been one of the most important ones in my life, I decided I needed to figure this out and fix it. After lots of soul-searching, I realized what had happened. I had changed. My life had changed and my role had changed – not my mom. Now I was the mom and my mom was my child’s grandmother. Before having children, I didn’t think about how our relationship would change. I knew she would love my child(ren), but I would always be her child, so it didn’t matter. Nothing would change that. But, it did. After I figured out the real reason our relationship changed, I called her up and we chatted. She said she’d noticed something off with us as well and we talked it out like we always do. Both of us felt a huge relief after acknowledging that things had changed. Sometimes, that’s all it takes: acknowledgement.
Once we realized what was hindering our mother-daughter relationship, I took time to grieve. I knew it was gone and that there was no getting it back. But, I also realized what we gained. This wasn’t uncharted territory – we’d done this before. After going from “mommy” when I was little, to my pal growing up, to my adult mom/friend, we’d glided through life transitions before and we could do it again. This gave me hope. There was no reason to mourn the loss of this relationship! Instead, I needed to embrace it. I had my own family now, but I still needed my mom. We just had to work on crafting a new relationship that fit into our new roles as mom and grandmother.
I’m happy to say we’ve done it. I still talk to my mom multiple times a day and we see each other often. We still laugh about things that aren’t kid-related. But now, I’ve called her for parenting advice instead of home decor advice. She’s helped me decide what preschool to send my daughter to. I have a deeper respect for her as a parent now that I’m doing it myself. It’s the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, and she gets that. She now has an incredible relationship with my daughter. I glow when I watch them together. It fills me with pride, not jealousy. How lucky my daughter is to have Siti (Arabic for Grandmother) in her life! Now that I’ve had my second child, I don’t even miss our old relationship. I treasure this new relationship and the memories we’ve created. And I know we’ll create more.