When I think of my mother…a teenager’s love letter to her Mum

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A teenager's open letter to her mother - how I see my mum and what I remember when I think of my mother

Hannah Lamond, Aged 17

Hannah is 17. This is her letter to her Mama telling her how her view of her mum changed through the years. How she went from being ‘Just Mum’ to being a woman behind the mum too.
 
Through her words we see a seldom told side of how children view their parents and how this view changes as they grow and mature.
 
Hannah has written this as an incredibly honest and heart felt piece. And she shows us a view of mums, which is rarely spoken or written about.

When I think of my mother, I think of soap suds. Of the hot, chemical tinge of a washbasin and the red glow of hands that have been in the water too long.

She hated washing the dishes – I honestly think the day we got a dishwasher was one of the best days of her life. But she always did it.

I would see her through the window to the kitchen, wiping the mess we’d made off every plate, while we watched TV in the room next door.

A teenager's open letter to her mother - how I see my mum and what I remember when I think of my mother

There is an anecdote that she always tells over family dinners, of me at three years old. I am bouncing on my dad’s knee, and he is lifting me up and spinning me round the room before bedtime. Rosy cheeked I declare that ‘daddy’s superpower is being the strongest man in the world’.

Of course, I am then asked about mummy’s superpower and, after giving it some dutiful consideration, come to: ‘being the bestest ever at washing up’. The story is always met with a laugh, an eye-roll at the unappreciative role into which my mother is distilled.

The world is viewed through a selfish lens in childhood. Empathy is a foreign concept, incomprehensible to such a tiny brain.

At five years old, I viewed my parents solely based on what they brought to my life. Daddy brought ice-cream on weekends and trips to the zoo. Mummy got cross at bedtime and tugged my hair when she brushed it.

When my parents divorced, I was too little to understand. I was five years old and sitting on my living room floor, our huge dollhouse in front of us that my sister and me had forced my dad to drag out of storage.

We sat surrounded by a tiny porcelain family, arranging minute wooden furniture in each of the rooms, with an absorption in the task at hand that you lose as you get older.

There was an irony to the whole scene, as they sat beside us and explain very calmly that ‘mummy and daddy aren’t going to live together anymore’, our carefully constructed dollhouse left confusedly half-decorated as we tried to understand.

My new bedroom at my dad’s house had pink fairy lights and a Disney princess poster. My mum cried. She didn’t manage as well as my dad did, to pretend it was all going to be okay.

I remember being angry, that she was the one to shatter the illusion. When you are five, you do not know your mum can cry. You think your dad is strong because he can carry you down the stairs, you do not know what being strong means.

You fail to gather that sitting on your living room floor and telling your children that ‘this is the best thing for everyone’ when it is the last thing you ever wanted is one of the strongest things a person can do.

A teenager's open letter to her mother - how I see my mum and what I remember when I think of my mother

There is an idolisation that comes with fatherhood, one with which mothers are not graced. They have the glow of working in a job they love and of sleeping in on Sunday mornings.

My dad didn’t shout like my mum did when we stayed up past bedtime or didn’t eat all the broccoli. In my mind, my mum was selfish, because sometimes she cried and lost her temper, or shouted at my dad when he dropped us off late.

At thirteen years old, there was no-one I wanted to be more different from than my mother. It was a year of shouting matches down the hallway and arguments over every dinner.

It was an age where womanhood was becoming uncomfortably close, and my body slowly starting to break the façade that being a woman was the same as being as man.

Uncomfortable foreshadowing of the struggle ahead begins to manifest in an ache in my chest and drops of dark, red blood in my underwear.

At thirteen, it is impossible to look at the women in your life and admire them. It is impossible to do anything but be scared. Because you have seen the heartbreak and the sacrifice they have gone through – you have caused some of it.

I began to hate the unfairness of the world around me, of the patriarchy I never used to see but suddenly clouded my vision like steam. But ironically, instead of being angry at the world, I became angry with my mother. Because she seemed to embody the struggle I knew I would have to face.

It amazes me how long it takes to comprehend the notion that your parents are people. It is only through my own journey into adulthood that I have begun to imagine my mother as anything close to myself – and as soon as I tried, I couldn’t stop.

I began to see my mother everywhere, saw her reflected in everything I did.

Walking round unfamiliar universities far from home, I saw her stepping off a train at seventeen, having left behind everything she knew. I saw her choosing to stay here, to be with my dad, and to live with a constant homesickness that would never really go away.

Coming home crying after a fight with my boyfriend, I saw her after the divorce, holding herself together and playing Barbies with us as her whole world fell apart.

Wincing at my stretch marks in the mirror, I saw her swollen belly and her smiling face, as she gave me her body to tear and stretch and mark before she had even met me.

It has dawned on me that motherhood is a job that requires an incomprehensible selflessness. One that is wholly specific and cannot be paralleled, even in fatherhood.

Because not only does it require you to give up on your job and your life and your dreams, but to do so without ever being told ‘thank you’, without ever being allowed to wish that you hadn’t.

A teenagers view of her mama

You reach an age where sharply, suddenly, you want to apologise. To retract all the times you didn’t go to bed, or you moaned about tidying your room, or you shouted down the hall about not being allowed to go out.

Because when you close your eyes to fall asleep, you hear the baby crying upstairs, and there is a pang in your gut that wakes you up and makes your breasts ache under the sheets.

And you begin, slowly, to understand that one day it will be you. That you will wake up at 3am while your husband is asleep, to rock a child in your arms while your headache pounds.

That you will stop trying to write the story in your head, because the baby will need feeding and your mortgage will need paid.

That you will have to pick up Lego and hoover carpets and mop-up sick on the kitchen floor.

And that rather than being impressed, or grateful, or amazed it will be exactly what everyone will expect you to do. And you’re left with a daunting, aching fear that you won’t be able to.

A teenager's open letter to her mother - how I see my mum and what I remember when I think of my mother

Looking back, I cringe at the idea that three-year old me could think that my mother was defined by her talent at washing-up. But in hindsight, there is a poignancy to the idea, and one that I am only now beginning to grasp.

Because through the years, that is exactly what she has always done. Cleaned up other people’s mess. Without complaining, without being asked. After long-days, when it stung her hands, when no-one else was there to help.

She has taught me what it means to be selfless, and done so with an irrefutable grace that is all I have ever known.

And so, when I think of my mother, I think of soap-suds.

Hannah shares her love for her Mama with this piece. And her mother has written her own open letter back to her in her piece Why you will always be my baby girl.