For the majority of my childhood and some parts of my adult life, I can’t think of a time that Mama couldn’t, or rather, wouldn’t, fix things for me.
If someone crossed her Kitten, Mama was ready to go to battle and could go from a kind-hearted woman to full blown crazy redhead with lightening speed.
Until, that is, Mama decided to teach me a lesson.
I cannot even remember what it was, or what happened, but one day in my mid-20s, I ran to Mama, hoping she’d fix it, but I did not get her usual reaction.
“I am so sorry that happened,” she said.
Usually, she would ask for the offender’s name and contact information, so she could unleash her hellfire and brimstone.
This time, she simply said, “I am so sorry.”
“Aren’t you going to do something?” I asked.
“Not this time,” she replied. “I think this is a lesson you need to learn.”
I was shocked – don’t mothers live for this kind of stuff? Especially mine, who always wanted to rush in and make it all better.
But, no, she was going to let me deal with this on my own.
It was hard to swallow.
I kind of felt abandoned.
Didn’t she care? Didn’t she want to help? Did she want to see me upset and maybe the victim?
I asked her all of these things.
“You are only a victim if you think yourself one,” she said gently. “And I have raised to be nobody’s fool nor a victim. You know what needs to be done in this situation and I am not going to always be there to fight your battles. You decided to do this on your own, too. Sometimes, Kitten, you have to lie in the bed you made.”
Not the answer I was hoping for. And apparently, guilt was not going to work on her -- not this time, anyway.
The only way out of the mess was in.
I had to learn to fight my own battles and, realize that sometimes, things couldn’t be fixed.
I did not like it. But I did learn to not make that kind of mistake again.
Still, it hurt, and I didn’t understand why Mama didn’t help me when she could.
She reacted the same a few years later when I was going through a divorce.
A dear friend was visiting me, and as we walked through an antique store, I shared how Mama seemed to be letting me deal with things on my own, rather than rushing to my aid. I admitted I was kind of shocked and thought she didn’t care about me.
My friend turned around and looked me square in the eye and said, “No, she loves you. And I am going to tell you a truth that will hurt: sometimes, at the very moment you need someone the most in your life, that person is not going to be there. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you, it doesn’t mean they are abandoning you; it means they have a life, too, and sometimes, you have to take care of things on your own. I love you, and will always try to be there for you, but, there may come a day I can’t be. Learning this lesson now will save you heartache and disappointment in the future.”
As hard as it was to hear, it was the truth and eventually, I was glad I learned it.
I found out later, Mama stepping back and letting me learn that for myself was harder on her than it was me.
She wanted to swoop in like a one-woman cavalry and right the wrongs; she knew, though, I would never learn to do it for myself if she did.
As a mother, there is nothing harder than to watch your child, even if they are grown, go through something and let them do it.
Especially when it is a mess they got themselves in; even more so when the mess was something you had warned them about and they didn’t listen.
It wasn’t a punishment. It was love.
Tough, strong Mama love.
Just like when babies are learning to walk, we have to let them stumble a few times.
Toting them all the time does not strengthen their legs.
Granted, as I grew up and older, I realize just how much Mama has done and how sometimes, she sacrificed a tremendous amount for me. And even more, sometimes, it was harder for her let me fail – even just a little bit – to help me grow.
“Mama, you’re always going to love me, right?” Cole randomly asked one day.
“Nothing can ever make you stop loving me, right?” he asked again.
I immediately wondered what he did that I hadn’t found yet, but assured him, nothing could or would ever make me stop loving him.
“So, you will always love me, and you’ll never stop?” he pondered again. “Even if you get mad at me?”
I assured him again, I would never stop.
“No matter what?”
No matter what.
I may have to let him learn some lessons like Mama had to let me, but that would never, not ever, stop the love.
Even when it’s tough Mama love, it’s still love.