Will He Know Lisa?

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read If You Knew Suzy by Katherine Rosman, a book examining the relationship between a mother and daughters framed around a mother's early death.

There is a relationship between mothers of all daughters that is hard to explain. I speak firsthand about this world.... I have two sisters and we're all incredibly close to our mom and each other. My mom is a central part of my life, a luxury that I believe is gained from an (almost) all female household. However, I'm married to a man who is one of four boys, which makes an "all daughters" relationship very hard to understand. The differences between our families makes for some interesting perceptions.

I'm not sure how to describe it, but the mothers of all daughters don't have the same boundaries as mothers with boys. They've literally spent years walking into the bathroom, bedroom, fitting room, or locker room with their half clothed or naked daughters. There is an ease with an all girls family when it comes to nudity and clothes. You swap everything, share bathrooms and bedrooms, and go shopping on a regular basis when you're a family of all girls. Mom just becomes a part of that.

Moms of all girls are allowed to be more openly loving and affectionate. I'm not a "huggy" girl myself and sometimes physical affection makes me uncomfortable. But, that being said, even I can say that there is an affection that remains between moms and girls.

A mom of all girls watches her girls go through life with the bonus of her own experiences to draw from. (It's hard for a mom to truly anticipate what a teenage boy feels like.) Moms never stop mothering their girls, because they always have more to teach, always have an opinion to share, or a hug that will be needed. I don't think that relationship is the same between boys and their mothers.

It's a tricky equation... My mom's greatest accomplishment in life has been her children. She is a mother in every ounce of her body and soul and I don't know who she would be without us. She's remained active in our daily lives in a way that some might consider overwhelming. It can be. But, I've always known we're not alone. In reading this book I saw a relationship between a mother and two daughters that mirrored ours. For better or worse, there are other sisters and mothers out there who live in the same wonderful and crazy world of all girls.

I made the mistake of reading some of this book on the train during the busy commute times, which seems to be my only opportunity to get a good stretch of reading done. (I don't like to get emotional in general, I especially don't like to get emotional while on the train with strangers.) There were moments when Katherine's healthy, vibrant mother's death was too real and in my mind, I visually replaced Suzy with Anna (my mom). In those moments I had to close the book and play around on twitter. The thought alone was too much.

I don't know the book that I would write about my mom. I know some of the best memories I have of her, like the drawings of Care Bears and princesses I found on the napkins tucked into my lunch box, the unabashed tears she shed my entire senior year of high school as she prepared for my departure for college, her ability to create delicious sandwiches, yet her knack for shrinking every piece of clothing and giving whites a pinkish hue. I'll remember the pride she always took in our differences, her ability to bake and use a hot glue gun, my ability to speak in front of an audience and swim against the tide. I'll think of the way she always puts on a proper front when in social situations, while I tend to live by the "what you see is what you get" school of thought. I know all these things about her. I know them deeply. Yet, they don't even scratch the surface of who my mom is.

It makes me wonder if my son will ever really know me. If mothers and daughters naturally remain closer, what can a son say about his mother? Will he just call me a "good mom?" Will he remember the songs that I made up for everything he does or his belly laugh that only I can get with a good round of tickling? If something were to happen to me today or tomorrow, would he identify with all the ways I strive to let him know how deeply he is loved? Will he see me as a whole person, not just a mom? Would he know that a reputation doesn't necessarily define a person, that I was often a contradiction of myself?

I want him to see that he had a mother who loved him, but was more than just his mom. I want him to recognize that I'm a human with tons of flaws and an overwhelming ability to love, that I lived a whole life before I had him and there was a world outside of my role as mom. I think it's only in those ways that he'd really understand who his mom is... And I feel like I could learn so much more about my mom if I started to see her as Anna, not just mom.

This post was inspired by If You Knew Suzy by Katherine Rosman, which I received complimentary as a part of From Left to Write Book Club. See how other moms were inspired by this book here.


Linsey K / Krolik Legal said...

I have sisters only too and I think you are right - it is a special and different relationship of a mother who has only girls. I have two girls and a boy and I'm glad there are sisters in the mix. Although I am just getting to know the brother relationship, through my son, and that's interesting too.

It is strange (yet appropriate) how little we know of our parents until we become grownups (parents?) ourselves. I sometimes wonder what my kids will know about me. In this world of online documentation (blogs!), there is a lot more out there, but also a lot more to sift through. And I know I don't put everything out there on my blog, so the story will be incomplete unless filled in with some IRL details.

At the core, I agree with you that I want my kids to know that I was more than their mom. What they will learn is anyone's guess!

Katie Rosman said...

The point you make about boundaries -- or lack thereof -- between mothers, daughters and sisters is so right. There have been times when I have longed so much for my mom. But during once such moment, my sister said to me, "If Mom were here she'd be taking charge, telling you what to do and driving you crazy!" My sister was so right! I think about that, and laugh about it, frequently.

Windtraveler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Windtraveler said...

(sorry, spelling error in that last one) Well, if my relationship with my dad says anything about this - i would say that, yes, he will know you. just because you don't share a gender with your parent/child, you can still form a amazingly close bond with them :). bonds are formed through shared moments, experiences and passions, not by shared gender.

Anonymous said...

This one really touched me espcially since I am carrying my first baby who happens to be a little girl! I really do think that William will know Lisa and how great of a person she is. He is an amazing little boy!