Dear Mum

I'm sorry Mum, that I broke you some­times. I'm sorry that I made you cry and that I haven't made the same ef­forts as you. Please for­give me.

Living Now - - Editorial - by Suvi Ma­ho­nen

I'm sorry Mum, that I broke you some­times. I'm sorry that I made you cry and that I haven't made the same ef­forts as you. Please for­give me.

Dear Mum, I’m sorry I made you cry.

I’ll never for­get see­ing you stand­ing un­der the street­light at the end of Carols by Can­dle­light, wip­ing your eyes, while the crowds streamed around you as they walked away from the beach.

I’d just told you I never wanted to see you again. I was scared, and I needed your help. Rather than ask­ing you nicely, though, I de­manded, and when you hes­i­tated, just for a sec­ond, I pan­icked. And be­fore we knew it, we were yelling at each other again and we haven’t spo­ken since Christ­mas.

If I was log­i­cal, which I know I’m not, es­pe­cially when I’m anx­ious, I would re­alise that time spent with you is a gift. We live so far apart, and we see each other so rarely, I should try to make your vis­its as fun and har­mo­nious as pos­si­ble. But in­stead I end up mak­ing them painful, and all about the past.

As you know, my life has been a se­ries of dis­as­ters. From my stupid and im­pul­sive teenage mar­riage to a string of univer­sity cour­ses and jobs that I didn’t have the willpower to per­se­vere with. But when I try to jus­tify this his­tory to my­self, I find it much eas­ier to blame it all on you and Dad mov­ing away when I was nine­teen, rather than ac­cept­ing any re­spon­si­bil­ity for my own ac­tions.

Did I want you to re­main in Vic­to­ria rather than move to Queens­land? I have ar­gued ‘yes’ many times. But the truth is, I was happy to see you go. I was a nine­teen-year-old, re­centl­y­sep­a­rated univer­sity stu­dent who was ex­cited about the fu­ture and drunk on free­dom and I didn’t need my mother hang­ing around. Or, at least, that’s what I con­vinced my­self.

“Come with us”, you said, while you were pack­ing af­ter Dad ac­cepted his new job. “See it as a new ad­ven­ture. We’ll have fun.”

I looked away. I didn’t want any­thing to do with what I thought was another one of your stupid ideas. Why would I want to live near my par­ents?

But fun times never last. And when I be­gan to find things hard on my own, I started to blame my in­abil­ity to cope on you. Money prob­lems? It was be­cause you had moved away. If I still lived at home, I wouldn’t have to pay rent, would I? Fail­ing sub­jects in my course? How could I study enough when I had to work as well? Binge eat­ing? I was lonely, and miss­ing my fam­ily.

The big­gest thing I blamed you for, though, was the fear I felt when I was preg­nant and I dis­cov­ered my baby was go­ing to be a girl. I mean, how could I be ex­pected to form a close re­la­tion­ship with my own daugh­ter, when the one with my mother was in tat­ters?

What re­ally killed me, in those lonely mo­ments when I was buy­ing baby clothes by my­self, is that you re­ally wanted a daugh­ter. You’ve told me many times that you hoped that you were go­ing to have a girl. But you didn’t know, of course, be­cause it was back in the days be­fore ul­tra­sounds were rou­tine in preg­nancy. And when you first saw my raw, red, scrawny body you told me your voice caught.

“It’s a girl, isn’t it?”

The doc­tor looked up, his face framed by your parted knees. “Yes”, he said.

You started cry­ing, be­cause you were so happy. You had ev­ery­thing pre­pared for me at home. Lace trim on the cra­dle. A pram with a frilly canopy. A slew of pink teddy bears. You so longed for your lit­tle princess. But you got me in­stead. I wasn’t in­ter­ested in hav­ing tea par­ties with you, or play­ing dress-ups, or mak­ing pa­per dolls. I was an anx­ious lit­tle girl im­mersed in her own lit­tle world and you didn’t quite know how to reach me. And it only got worse as I got older. The harder you tried to es­tab­lish an emo­tion­ally sta­ble mother-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ship, the more I pushed you away.

That is, of course, un­til my own daugh­ter came along.

I looked away. I didn’t want any­thing to do with what I thought was another one of your stupid ideas. Why would I want to live near my par­ents?

I had no idea when I was try­ing to fall preg­nant that be­com­ing a mother is one of the hard­est things many women will ever do. I couldn’t com­pre­hend how much courage is re­quired to get up night af­ter night to feed a new-born, or how, when you’re car­ing for a child, your own needs get com­pletely ig­nored. I wasn’t pre­pared for how of­ten they get sick, or how of­ten they cry, or how much at­ten­tion they need ev­ery day. Nor could I have pre­dicted that there would be mo­ments, when I hadn’t slept prop­erly for days, that the urge to run away from it all would seize me.

And it was dur­ing some of my dark­est days that you came down to help me. I am so grate­ful for all those times you changed Amity, and fed her, and took her out for walks. Thank you, Mum, for giv­ing me those mo­ments to breathe when it felt like I was suf­fo­cat­ing un­der it all. The fact that Amity has grown into a happy, healthy three-year-old is some­thing for which I have you, in no small part, to thank for.

Time and time again, what has sur­prised me the most is how much she re­minds me of you. I can’t even count how many times she has said some­thing to me in ex­actly your tone of voice, or given me your clas­sic ‘ try­ing-to-be-stern’ look, or put her arms around me with the same fierce and un­guarded love that you do.

The other day, Amity and I were scrolling through pho­tos on my phone, and we came across one of you. She touched the screen, looked at me and then said, “I want to see Gramma.” What could I say to her? I’m sorry lit­tle girl. I fought with your grand­mother and, be­ing the pig-headed idiot that I am, I haven’t spo­ken to her in over four months. I’ve ig­nored her calls and I haven’t re­sponded to her emails. I didn’t even open the let­ter she sent me.

One of my friends once said to me, “Hav­ing kids is like a drug. They heighten your ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing, but de­stroy you in the process.” I laughed. I just as­sumed she was jok­ing. But look­ing back, I re­alise now, that there were times I de­stroyed parts of you. When I’ve made you sob with frus­tra­tion, when I’ve made you feel like a fail­ure, when you’ve been racked with worry over some of the choices I’ve made in my life.

It’s been more than twenty years since you moved to Queens­land and we’ve never spent a Mother’s Day to­gether since. That’s largely my fault. You’ve tried to make an ef­fort to come and see us ev­ery year at Christ­mas, but I’m sorry, Mum, I haven’t made the ef­fort back.

Amity is asleep at the mo­ment. It’s 10pm, and the nights are get­ting colder. I just went in to tuck an ex­tra blan­ket around her and I found her ly­ing there with her arm around that pink bunny you bought her for Christ­mas.

There’s a say­ing that al­ways makes me cry when I think of you and Amity. ‘ One day, some­one is go­ing to hug you so tight that all of your bro­ken pieces fit back to­gether’.

I’m sorry, Mum, that I broke you some­times. I’m sorry I never tried as hard as you did. I’m sorry I wasted so many chances with you. If you’ll give me one more, Amity and I would love to come and see you on this Mother’s Day. Please for­give me. There’s a lit­tle girl who wants to hug you. And a big­ger girl who needs to. Love, Your daugh­ter

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