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Sunday Lifestyle

Blessings of Motherhood?

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez Ventura - The Philippine Star
Blessings of Motherhood?
I wish somebody would write a good book about parenting, taking you through the highs and lows, teaching you how to work in your need to find and define yourself as they are also taking little searching steps in the opposite direction.
Artwork by Fernand Khnopff

Sometimes I think of motherhood and feel elated that my daughters —whether they like it or not — have somehow followed in my footsteps. All of them are fiercely independent but they don’t see that the independence probably comes from me. They are fearless when making decisions. They just do what they think is best if it jibes with what they want to do. Otherwise, they will take the risk and do what they want to do. If they fail, they do exactly as their mother did: pick herself up, dust herself off and start all over again.

But my daughters are quiet about this. I remember when they were small we owned a small TV set that I could lock and take the key to work. That meant they could not watch TV until I got home. Because I worked in advertising, that often meant no TV until late. They did not see that I did that to give them time to do their homework.

When we sat down to eat, I insisted on no TV so we could talk because it was the only time when we were together. I would insist on talking, having conversations. One of the girls hated that. She made me feel like she hated me anyway. But being occasionally hated is one of the roles of motherhood.

Years pass. The one who hated me grew up, got married, had babies of her own. One day she invited me to lunch. As we were sitting her oldest son turned on their TV set. “No TV,” she said sternly. “We eat together and we talk. We do not watch TV during meals.” Then quite suddenly she remembered me sitting quietly at the table. “I know,” she almost sneered, “I learned that from you.”

“I didn’t say anything,” I said. She turned her back on me and went to the kitchen. When she returned we ate and conversed as if nothing happened.

My daughters have often made me feel like the egg that hatched them. I enjoyed them immensely when they were babies, got up at 2 a.m. to feed them, but they don’t remember that. They remember, instead, the years when I said, “Stop fighting. Whoever comes to tell me ‘My sister is always fighting with me,’ I will spank both the fighter and the fightee. Fix your problems yourselves if you want to avoid this punishment.” I only had to spank both girls once. After that they kept their fights more or less away from me.

Then came puberty. Those years were the worst, most difficult years of my life. But now that they’re all in their 50s, I have to say that puberty is the time when they are beginning to cut the cord that binds them to their parents, groping their way through how to be away from them. That’s when anything you do as their mother is wrong. That’s when the hatred is so intense and, sometimes, it almost works both ways.

Finally they hit maturity, get married, build their own lives, get divorced, pick themselves up and try all over again. That’s when you hardly hear from them. That’s when you feel like an eggshell, either put on a spike of a plant to fertilize or thrown in the garbage. Well, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and look for something you like to do, that will fill up your time and make you laugh.

Mothers and daughters hardly get along well though they are almost always together through the growing years. I have a son who didn’t grow up with me, who inflicted his puberty on his father, much to my relief. But even if my girls thought I gave him up too easily, they did not know I shed tears during my private times, when they were out or asleep.

There is no parenthood — motherhood or fatherhood — without pain. But as the years pass you find that motherhood, though not as easy as you thought it would be when you had your first baby, was not so bad after all. As you grow older you appreciate your daughters and forget the pain you went through while they were growing up. You converse on more equal levels. And when your daughter becomes a grandmother and you become a great-grandmother, that’s when you become better friends. Both of you are crazy over the same little baby who laughs and loves to be carried by both of you, but not together.

I wish somebody would write a good book about parenting, taking you through the highs and lows, teaching you how to work in your need to find and define yourself as they are also taking little searching steps in the opposite direction. Nobody has written that book. Don’t look at me. The children resent having a mother who’s a writer and who writes about them. Because I wrote this column, they might stop talking to me.

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