My dear friend and colleague AnJuan,
I want to thank you for letting me share my Mother’s Day essay on your blog. The timing of this post could not have been more perfect: I recently visited my son Jaime and my daughter-in-love Mia in Los Angeles. (Jaime and Mia are Wesleyan University sweethearts – they’re getting married next year.)
Among the many conversations Jaime and I had were a look back at his childhood. I asked him, now that you are turning 30, tell me honestly: how did I do? The good, the bad, the ugly – tell me all of it.
For background and context, Jaime is my only child. His father – my first husband – and I split up when Jaime was just two and a half. Despite that, my ex-marriage was amicable and cooperative, and we all lived in the same neighborhood until Jaime graduated high school from the International School Manila, which he attended since kindergarten. By the time Jaime left for Wesleyan, his father had happily remarried, and I had met my future husband.
I realize this brief paragraph provides only the very broadest of strokes in describing the marathon that is motherhood – my motherhood of Jaime, at that. There were many valleys between the peaks, but those are perhaps best saved for other posts.
For this Mother’s Day, I simply want to share Jaime’s answer to my question. I can hardly type for the tears of happiness that are welling in my eyes.
When I reflect on my childhood, only happy thoughts emerge. It was filled with laughter, excitement, creativity, and meaningful life lessons above all. You raised me to be an extremely confident and secure young man, and this has served me and the continual achievement of my goals greatly throughout my life.
Something I will always recall is how you never failed to praise me and provide positive reinforcement when warranted, even if it was for something little or seemingly insignificant. It helped instill a strong belief in myself.
You were also never afraid to hold me accountable when I did something wrong or out of character. You modeled and showed me the importance of integrity from a young age. You taught me how to apologize, and to mean it. You showed me the importance of compassion, empathy, and doing unto others as I would have them do unto me. For all this I will never be able to thank you enough.
As I observe family, friends, peers, acquaintances, and coworkers throughout my life, I learn more about the types of trauma and wounds that people carry with them from childhood. I feel for anyone who must deal with that kind of residual pain on a daily basis, and I hope to do my part to help others heal and move past their suffering. While no one is immune to such experiences of trauma, I am so grateful to be able to confidently say that I don’t feel much if any, and especially not from my upbringing or the way you or Dad raised me.
Thank you. <3
The things you did right:
– Praise me when I did something right
– Hold me accountable when I did something wrong
– Give me insight into what my peers might be experiencing behind closed doors (e.g. he/she acts that way because they don’t get x/y/z/ at home…)
– Show me the importance of respecting & loving others regardless of race/sexuality/class/etc.
– Support me unabashedly throughout any activity or experience I wanted to do or try
– Teach me about sex & sexuality in a mature, honest, non-repressed, and comfortable way
– Show me the importance of investing myself in the lives of others (i.e. the more you give to people, the more you will receive in return)
Again, dear reader, please know that this is only the good stuff – we overcame many struggles, obstacles, and conflicts along the way. I am no paragon of motherhood, and I often winged it or outright wrong-footed it. I just took a very, very long term view and did my best to raise a decent and civilized human being, capable of loving relationships and independent self-direction.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and mom-figures out there.