Why Mothers Are a Girl's Best Friend

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Our Changing Relationship

When I think about my relationship with my mom, the findings don't surprise me. I was consistently rude to her as a teenager -- I was the kind of kid who often responded to some innocuous comment like, "Good morning, dear!" with a snarl. A heartfelt, somewhat pained question like "Why are you doing this?" was met with "Get off my back!" I was by turns sullen, needy, and resentful. I had an arrogant certainty that I'd arrange all aspects of my life in ways that would absolutely leave my mother in the dust. Forgiving as she is, my mom insists that I was a "complicated but interesting" teenager, occasionally challenging, but always intriguing. I know better. I remember, on a family trip to Europe when I was 14, loitering on the deck of a ferry near a group of guitar-strumming college students, hoping they'd take me for a fellow globe-trotting sophisticate -- then biting my mother's head off when she asked me to hold my little sister's stuffed monkey.

On the other hand, no sooner had I started college when my feelings subtly started to shift. My very first morning in the dorm, the phone rang rather early, and I jumped out of bed to grab it so my roommate wouldn't be awakened. It was my mother. "I just went into your room to wake you up and you weren't there," she said, laughing, though she was slightly tearful, too. I laughed along with her, but I also felt a slight catch in my throat. There was something extraordinary in her ability to feel wistful about not having me there to rouse, despite all my years of sour sleepiness. Perhaps in that moment, I took the very tiny first step toward an adult relationship with her, toward understanding the value of her ability to look past the skirmishes of everyday life -- toward understanding the value of her love. Still, I had not yet crossed any threshold. When my roommate looked at me blearily on her way to the bathroom, I sort of smirked and said, "My mom," and she nodded knowingly back.

Continued on page 3:  Mom Understands


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