My mother isn’t perfect. I don’t think she ever tried to be. And, now that I am an adult, I really enjoy giving her a hard time about how she is obviously responsible for everything that is wrong with me today. I mean, who do you think taught me how to shop my feelings away?? But, for all that it is worth, she is also responsible for a good chunk of the things that, I think, are pretty amazing about me too.
Back in the 80’s, long before there was real data about children’s mental health or how kids cope through divorce (I was the only kid in my class for nearly 4 years who had divorced parents), my mom knew how important it was to help my sister and me cope. Even with all of the stigma, the lack of resources, and the naysayers, my mom took me to a counselor. He wasn’t a great counselor and I can’t even say that I remember all that much about him. However, the actual process of knowing that there was a safe space where it was okay to be emotional and it was okay to get angry set me on a path for learning how to properly cope with various situations. My mom knew I needed that.
She also had enough insight into who I was as a person to know that I probably also needed some “out-of-the-box” strategies as well. She talked to teachers and school counselors and, together, they helped me discover a love for creative writing. It started with poems and short stories as a child and turned into journaling and blogging as an adult. Writing has been there for me through every struggle in my life all because my mom cared enough to put her struggles aside and pay attention to the needs of her children. For that, I am forever grateful.
And now, because I learned early that counseling helps, I strive every day to be the counselor who puts their client first, who helps families who are struggling, and who empowers kids to think “outside-the-box” and figure out what works for them. I love knowing that I am helping others find their safe space to be who they are.
Throughout my life, my mother has been able to transform into the role that I needed her to play. As I grew up and went through the typical (and sometimes terrible) developmental stages that all girls go through, my mom managed to be a caregiver, a regulator, a complete embarrassment, a soft shoulder to cry on, a warm body to snuggle up to, an enemy to battle, a distant observer, a confidant and secret-keeper, a friend, and now, a fellow mother who can offer support and guidance.
Tomorrow, however, both of our roles will shift. Tomorrow, my mother, the forever-teacher who makes me giggle because she still tries to turn vacations into learning experiences, is having brain surgery.
Recently, doctors discovered that she has an aneurysm that is sitting on her optic nerve. It has caused some pretty drastic vision impairment (which is, fortunately, how they discovered it).
A few days from now, my sister and I become the caregivers. We will now be the worriers, the hand-holders, and the supporters- like she has been for us for our entire lives. I am doing my best to maintain my composure. I have researched the surgery and the surgeon more times than I care to admit. I have tried to help my mother stay positive, encouraged her to talk about fears, and I try to keep reminding her (and myself) to take one step at a time.
As a counselor, this should be easy for me. But as a mother and a daughter, I am freaking out inside. So, I would like to make a request for anyone who reads this… please pray for her. Please think about her. Please send positive vibes and good thoughts to Asheville, NC. Please post comments and send well wishes because my mother, forever the extrovert, would love it. And she needs all the encouragement and strength that she can get right now. And I might just need a little bit of it too.