Musings on Mother's Day

by Alyana Thompson | 5/8/98 5:00am

With Mother's Day fast approaching, I was just thinking about how my relationship with my mother has changed since I arrived at the College. Before college, my mother and I were very close -- like sisters even. I was never raised with a great fear of rules or consequences, but to hear my grandmother tell it, I often "Got away with murder." I never had to rebel really, because anything I wanted to do, I was basically allowed to do. My mother trusted me, and whenever I wanted to stay out late with friends, there were never any admonishments about curfew, she would simply reply, "Well, what time do you think you will be home?"

One moment from my high school years stands out in my mind in which her trust was really tried. Somehow I ended up at a co-ed slumber party with alcohol and marijuana. Don't ask. In any event, when my mother came to pick me up the next day, I immediately told her everything and much to my surprise she not only applauded me for my handling of the situation, but never spoke of it again.

Perhaps I've digressed a bit from my initial point, but you can get a sense that our relationship was very good. Great, even. Then I decided to attend a small liberal-arts college in the Northeast. I am from Nevada. Now that I look back on it, I only applied to East Coast schools. For all of you budding Psychology majors who would like to take a shot at this, perhaps this was some subconscious attempt to liberate myself from the oppression of my home life? Maybe, but not likely. I just wanted to see another part of the United States. In any event, I had no idea that my decision to be so far away from home would greatly affect my relationship with my mother.

At first there were logistical problems that would constantly arise -- like how many times I should call home. Initially I called home every three days, but as I gradually settled into my new life, and because there is a three-hour time difference between the East Coast and the West Coast that usually conflicted with my unstable schedule, I would barely talk to my mom once a week. As my calls home became less frequent, my mom became more anxious, and I became more scared. It scared me to think that I didn't really need to talk to her everyday, a woman who I had talked to everyday for the past 18-19 years of my life.

It scared me to think that the closeness we once shared was somehow being translated into 10-minute phone calls once a week. It scared me to think that her role in my life, which had been so exclusive, so central, was changing and that I was becoming an adult, making my own decisions. It scared me to think that her previous role as care-taker and nurturer was becoming almost obsolete in a sense as I began the mundane tasks of doing my own laundry and cooking my own meals. I never could really express these fears to her, because to articulate them would be to acknowledge they existed and that was the scariest thought of all. As long as they were concerns in my head, their truth had no real effect, and I could dismiss them as just concerns in my head.

So, instead of talking about the way I was feeling, I internalized everything and came to in many ways resent my mother. Whenever she called me, which would usually be late because of the time difference, I would be distant or on edge the whole time on the phone. Oftentimes, our conversation would end in an argument over some petty issue.

My mother would usually be on the verge of tears, and I would in turn be both angry and annoyed at her for calling in the first place and angry at myself for making my mom cry. There were many times when I would just hang the phone up on her in the middle of the conversation. I would always call back later and apologize after I calmed down, but like some vicious cycle, the same scenario would replay itself the following week.

To make matters worse, because of my decision to participate in two foreign study programs and work abroad my Sophomore Summer, I rarely spend more than two or three weeks at a time at home. Inside I was frustrated because my mom was hurting, but we never talked about it. We only argued. I think I was afraid to tell my mom what I knew was becoming so painfully clear -- I was growing up, I was becoming an adult and she had to let me be an adult. But part of being an adult was dealing with the nature of the parent-child relationship changing.

I liken it to a mother bird and her baby birds. After a mother bird spends months feeding her babies she then teaches them how to hunt. The natural progression is then to teach them how to fly. Oftentimes the baby bird is afraid of leaving the safety of the nest; oftentimes the baby bird falls, but more often than not the baby bird learns from the mother and sooner or later begins to soar high in the sky.

I think at this stage in my life, I'm still circling around the nest, but with future plans of soaring high. But, I must admit, I'm still not altogether comfortable with the idea of leaving the nest for good. Yet I know that one day that will be the case. I just pray that my mother will let me go, and I will be confident in my flight.