Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lord help me, but as time goes on, I'm slowly turning into my mother. I see it in the little ways - from my obsessive picture taking of the same thing (me: the eiffel tower, her: fall foliage). I can still hear myself as a child saying "But mom - the leaves change color every year. You have albums and albums of the exact same pictures!"

Or in the way that I have friends and acquaintances all over France, Europe & the US. And in the way that I make an effort to cultivate and keep those friendships. It used to drive me crazy as a child that no matter where we went, she always ran into someone she knew - which for me, meant standing there and having to be patient while she chatted. But now I find myself doing the same - making connections, bringing people together.

Funnily enough, my mother always told me my name meant "patience", something I was often in short supply of until moving to France. Though google disagrees and says it means "listener" in Aramaic.

I suppose it's inevitable that we all end up in some way like our mothers (or fathers) - it's just not something I ever pictured myself doing. My mother felt like she'd had a very unfair childhood growing up as the oldest child of an immigrant family, and in many ways, I paid for that. She was often selfish and she was a workaholic. She was very hard on me - pushing me to constantly do more and do better. I never got pocket money or an allowance from her, I was always told that if I wanted money, I had to earn it myself. So I started working from a very early age - at 12 - in order to have some financial freedom. To be able to buy clothes and cassette tapes like my friends. The same party line continued on when I went to college and I worked 30-40 hours per week to pay my way through school. Not that I'm complaining here - I absolutely loved the jobs I had in college and wouldn't have traded them for the world. And it made me self-sufficient. Independent. Able to take care of myself. I couldn't really say the same for my college roommate, who, as lovely as she was, seemed to think that money only came from the ATM.

But all of this meant that I resented my mother for a good portion of my youth - she was so tough on me and so easy on my brother. My father was my refuge, the one who always comforted and encouraged me - which was why it was even doubly harder for me when he passed away. It was often an "us against them" mentality, and I had lost my "us".

I don't know what's made me think about all this lately - maybe watching MJ's poor children having to deal with the death of their father in the public eye. Maybe my impending trip to the US, in which I know I'll be spending time a lot of time with her. And the thing is, since my father died, she's changed. Softened with time. Regrets that we don't have that typical mother/daughter relationship. It's so strange now for me to see her almost try to buy my love, and it's almost laughable to hear her offer to buy me a plane ticket home after so many years of extreme tight-fistedness.

Part of time thinks it's too late to change - almost 30 years of interactions can be a hard habit to break. But part of me thinks we have to - she's my only remaining parent. Many people out there no longer have that, including some of you reading this. And because of you, I think of what will happen when she's gone. I'm so far away and I don't want to have any regrets.

So this time around, I'm vowng to try to be more open. More patient. To talk more about my life. To appreciate what I can learn from her. And to accept her as she is.

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Blogger Isabelle said...

Being a parent is the hardest job ever...
You do realize that when you become a parent yourself, and put everything back into perspective.

July 11, 2009 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

I think you're right Isabelle - and watching so many of my friends around me start to have kids is helping me realize that. But I also know it's not something I'll ever fully understand until I have children of my own.

July 11, 2009 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Syd said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 11, 2009 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Syd said...

It's weird how parents change, and how odd it seems to their children.

My parents bought me an alarm clock when I was 10, and from then I was 'on my own' as far all those 'independence' issues were concerned. It was that way with everything - they did nothing 'for' me (except being good, loving parents). It was all about creating independent adults. To me, that was who my parents were.

Then a few years back things changed, and my parents started to offer more support - like one time I had to get up very early and my mom offered to call me to get me up. My jaw didn't close for a week.

I realize now that their focus back then was not on what they were doing or not doing for me, but what I was doing or not doing for me. Now that I'm well into adulthood, they don't have to 'worry' anymore that I won't turn out independent, so they are more relaxed about doing things for me that I'm perfectly capable of doing for myself.

I guess my point is that while we see how our parents are (when we're young) as how they are, it's sometimes more about how they are parenting, but we naturally don't see that because we have no perspective. It's not just time that changed my parents, it's their responsibility to me.

I don't have kids, and I don't think one needs to have kids to understand their parents. Just time and interest is enough.

July 11, 2009 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger rhino75 said...

I think as you become older too, you start to see your parents more as "people," with the same faults and foibles we all have. And what can seem tough at the time can also work to your advantage later. I was talking to a high-school friend of mine not so long ago who confessed he felt a bit "let down by life," that all the opportunities that his parents had said were open to him actually hadn't been in reality. In high school, I'd really envied him for having parents like that. But it made me realise that my own parents' stance that "life IS hard" "work IS boring" "You've just got to get on with things and stop moping around" etc. has actually stood me in very good stead because it meant I never felt that the world owed me anything, and thus have never felt the disappointment my friend feels. Same thing with the part-time and vacation jobs. My parents insisted that we got jobs ASAP because it's "character-forming" - and now I'm glad they did. As Isabelle says, parenting really is the toughest job there is, and you can afford to cut them some slack :))

July 11, 2009 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Patricia said...

My mother died when I was 10 years old and my father died 6 years ago. I would do anything to have my mother and all the time I did not have with her, so it is hard for me to hear people complain about their mothers. Though, I totally understand, Sam, because my stepmother was not the nicest woman and I was like you, especially, financially. I had no help from my parents and worked all through my high school years (and two jobs during the summers) when my friends were "hanging out" and having fun. At 18 I was totally on my own. On a positive note, it did make me a very strong and independent person (especially going to live and work in a foreign country where I did not know one person!). I have to admit I do spoil my daughter and try to give her the things I did not have (not just financially, but emotionally). She is a sweet girl and does not act spoiled - so I guess I am doing ok! We'll see - she's only 15! I hope you enjoy your trip. It is funny because it seems like every time you go to the US, I am traveling to France!

July 11, 2009 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

I agree with Rhino75 about seeing our parents as "real" people. I still remember in my early 20's the first time I realized that I really didn't like something about my mother. It was very upsetting and yet at the same time very liberating. Looking back on it, it was part of "growing up" and becoming an independent thinker. Now, 30 years later, I have a really close relationship with my mom which has grown over the years. We chat almost every day, confide in each other and have fun together. More and more I am looking out for her and my dad, making sure they are ok and have what they need. Our roles have slowly switched and I am being more like a parent to them. I treasure my time with them and I don't know how I will ever manage without my mom.

July 11, 2009 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

We're harder on our families than on our friends. So give yourself a break and your mom too, and don't put yourself in a position of regretting later the things you didn't do today. When your parents are gone, they're gone and there's no getting a second chance.

July 11, 2009 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 11, 2009 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger Crystal said...

as I get older, I realize how many things I do or like that are just like my Mom. But, I also realize just how different we are, and I think a big part of that comes from our life experiences. My Mom could never really understand my life because she didn't go to university or move to a foreign country. I could never really understand her life because I wasn't married with 2 babies at age 22. She's not perfect, but neither am I, and life is too short to nit pick. She loves me, and sometimes had strange ways of showing it, but in the end, love, no matter how dysfunctional it may be, is all that counts.

July 11, 2009 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger Starman said...

Samantha isn't a name in other languages. It's from an Aramaic version of Samuel (which means God listens, so just the Sam means listen), since the suffix antha (probably comes from 'Anthea', which comes from the Greek 'Antheia') which means flowery and you would get 'listening flower' if you translated your name altogether.

July 11, 2009 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Vivi said...

That's hilarious, I was just thinking last night that I'm turning into my mother! Not in a good way, either. :/ As you know, she's gone now but despite the fact that we had a very difficult relationship (Dad and I were on the same team, too), I'd give anything to have ten more minutes with her. Good on you for recognizing that the time you have with her is precious, especially since you live so far away!

July 12, 2009 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger Animesh said...

But k_sam - the Eiffel tower is there every day. You have folders and folders of the exact same pictures!


Jokes apart, great post. And yes, I also have found myself showing traits of my parents -- traits that I hated as a child :-)

July 12, 2009 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger Nikita said...

Wow, what a beautiful post. I myself have always had a torrid relationship with my mother, who has always been super hard on me. Sometimes I wonder if my intense desire to travel, numerous stints living abroad, and insatiable wanderlust is a direct result of wanting to get away from her... We always get along so much better when I am living on a different continent, as bad as that sounds.

While we can't always right the mistakes of the past, we can always ensure that the present and future is better. It seems as though your mom is extending the olive branch through fostering a more positive relationship..

July 12, 2009 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Cécy said...

My relationship with my mom wasn't always so easy. As a teenager and when my parents relationship fell appart, everyone in my family expected me to build up that relationship to make her happy. All that pressure was not helpful.
Now we're just doing it our own way, little by little asking questions about each other lives and recognizing what we've brought to each other's lives.
So it's not easy and I do envy too those who have those great mom-daughter relationship.
Good luck to you.

July 13, 2009 at 5:50 PM  

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