| Words Unspoken |

Dearest Mommy

“Thank you for teaching me these lessons and helping me grow into a mature adult”


Dearest Mommy,

About a year ago I wrote you a letter in this space, describing how I felt left out while watching you give so much to my sister who was struggling. Now, I want to say I’m sorry. I’ve learned a few things since then, and I realize that my attitude was mistaken.

I look at Babby and Zeidy who, back when I was a kid, weren’t much older than you are now. You hosted them, not the other way around, never dreaming of them coming to babysit to give you a break.

I now understand that you don’t owe anything to me, and that each moment you spend with us, your adult children, and each gift you give, is an extra.

In our society, kids get married young. Many of my friends go to their mothers weekly to drop off their kids and take food for Shabbos, or crash by them whenever they need a break. The problem is that when you’re busy looking at others, your view of your own world gets blurry.

I don’t always see all you do for the rest of the family because we don’t live that close to each other. But I know you send me gifts and money. You always make sure to listen to me when things are rough and you offer support. To visit me is in itself a trek, yet you do it frequently.

I sometimes hear my friends complain about their parents or in-laws and am awash with pity — for the parents, who try so hard to give to the best of their ability — and for the kids themselves, who instead of being able to enjoy a warm relationship with their parents or in-laws, feel ignored, as if they’re not being given what they deserve. The parent feels inadequate and the children get angry and sulk.

Sometimes I forgot that you’re a person, too, and that on Motzaei Yom Tov, after hosting us all week, you must be exhausted. Yet despite that, you helped my sister pack up and you sent along food for her and her husband. I forgot that helping each kid takes a tremendous amount of energy. I was remiss in recognizing that you also want to develop yourself and your own interests, like working out, going out with friends, or taking vacation.

That’s not a betrayal of me or my siblings. You raised us all and now that we’ve grown, you are fully entitled to some time for yourself, even if it means not visiting as often as we dream.

I understand why I wrote that letter last year. It was a challenging time for me. You know how right before a growth spurt, kids are cranky? It takes time to grow into a new skin. You were adjusting to the next stage of adulthood — grandparenthood and retirement — while I was struggling to adjust to my next milestone — mother of teenagers. It was a hard transition, one I had to work on.

As you once explained to me, relationships can be like the letter “A” or the letter “H.” The parts of the letter “A” lean on each other. If one side falls down, the other does, too. The parts of the letter “H” are connected, but stand on their own.

I see you’ve been working on becoming an “H,” giving when you’re able, but not feeling responsible for everyone’s well-being. When you first started standing up straight, I fell over. It took me a little while to be okay on my own, still connected to you, but not dependent on you.

Now that I’ve found this balance, it feels so much better. I’m sad that I spent time wallowing in self-pity and resentment over something that wasn’t even owed to me. It’s a shame that it caused friction and that you probably felt, justifiably, unappreciated.

Now that I’ve done internal work, I feel okay. I know I’m loved and cherished and that I have inherent value regardless of whether you give me exactly the same as my sister. I’ve become a safer person to say no to, meaning I won’t lash out or get upset when I hear that response. As I become someone who can communicate, our relationship has strengthened.

I know you now feel more comfortable speaking to me, sharing with me, and even saying you can’t do something because it’s too much for you. And it brings me joy to know I’m a person with whom you can have that kind of relationship.

Fair and equal are two different things. Just because my sister needs something — money for therapy, a vacation, you to watch her kids — doesn’t mean I have to get the exact same thing. You give me what I need when I need it, in the best way you can.

And if you can’t, that’s okay. I now recognize that you’re a person and have limits, too.

So, thank you. Thank you for teaching me these lessons and helping me grow into a mature adult. Thank you for all you give to everyone in our family, to those who appreciate it and to those who don’t or simply don’t know how to express it.

And thank you for all you have given and continue to give every single day.

I love you,

Your Daughter Who’s Gained Clarity


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 816)

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