Sometime between turning 18 and 31, it struck me. I don’t really know my parents. Like really, really know them. Over the years, there have been tidbits of information and stories dropped into conversations like little breadcrumbs for me to pick up, but those have been few and far between.
Here’s what I do know:
My Mom comes from a long line of women farmers in Minnesota who bucked centuries-old tradition by working the land and managing the day-to-day operations without the help of men. My Mom was her high school valedictorian and ran circles around the boys on the basketball court. She traveled to Israel while in college and just happened to meet world-renowned conductor Leonard Bernstein at a party. She was one of the first women to attend the University of Minnesota law school. Lilacs are her favorite flower, and she would rather curl up with her dog and a good book than go shopping. My Mom was someone before I came along.
And my Dad. A Swiss-born, classically trained pianist turned physicist and materials science professor who wore hipster glasses long before they became cool. My Dad, who quizzed me on the difference between Bach and Beethoven at an early age and sang to me each night before bed. There may have also been some flute playing in there.
I consider myself extremely lucky that my parents chose to retire where I live. They’re helping take care of our son, which is priceless, and it’s giving us a chance to reconnect and, in a lot of ways, get to know each other.
I’m discovering new things about my Mom every day and I have to constantly remind myself to keep digging. She’s not one to talk about herself, but, with some coaxing, those slivers of information keep coming. There’s so much there, buried under decades of life experience and the perfect silvery blond, wavy hair.
I want my son to know me. To really, really know me. I want him to know me for more than the snot-wiping, lunch-making, tickle monster and hide-and-seek partner that I love to be.
I want him to know that before my belly bulged to enormous proportions, I spent years playing violin and relished summers at music camp. I want him to know that I carry a preserved four-leaf clover (a real one) in my wallet that I found when I was eight years old. I want him to know that I learned to drive on a stick shift and that one of my all time favorite things are clean, fluffy sheets.
I want him to know that I was born in Switzerland and am a dual citizen. I want him to know that my first pet was a beagle named Bilbo Baggins, because my older brother was obsessed with The Hobbit.
There are things I want him to know about me that I can’t even pinpoint.
But, one of the first big lessons of motherhood, I think, is learning what it means to be truly selfless. To not eat a solid meal until 3 o’clock in the afternoon (does a handful of trail mix count?), because you’ve been taking care of your sick child all day. To literally drop everything and run when you hear them cry. To go days without a shower, because there are simply more important things to do, like playing trains and chasing the dog around our house.
Judging from my experience, I’m preparing myself for a long 18 years before my son figures out that his Mom is a person, too. And it might take even more time before he’s interested in peeling back the layers to learn more.
That scares me. The idea that someone who I love so wholly and completely could not know me on a fundamental level is a terrifying concept. Our friends, our spouses, co-workers, those relationships are based on mutual love or like and respect.
What if my son doesn’t like me? I can’t say that everything I’ve learned about my Mom is positive or up-lifting. Sometimes, it’s downright sad. But it does help me understand her better.
I think on some level, we all want to be understood. Knowing someone gives us valuable insight. I know my husband better than anyone, so when he comes home from work and doesn’t say much at first, I wait about five minutes before I dive in. I know that he doesn’t like milk in his cereal. I know that he prefers to chew two pieces of gum at a time. I know why he’s been to the emergency room four times. I know him.
There are things that will drive my decision-making that my son just won’t (and can’t) understand. We’ll likely go many, many years before we can truly build the kind of deep relationship that is based off more than just the typical mother and son roles.
It’s scary. But that’s okay. Because I know the reward, as I am now experiencing with my own parents, cannot be measured.
So I’ll wait. Decades if I have to. I just want him to know me.
Guest post written by Erin Holt. Erin is a public relations and communications professional living in Nashville who will always love asking questions and telling stories. She considers herself extraordinarily lucky to be mom to a rambunctious 13-month-old son, wife to a devoted and loving husband and chief dog-feeder to a demanding beagle. When she's not making strange animal noises to amuse her family, she enjoys running, cooking, playing violin, drinking lattes, and eating large cookies. She is currently working up the courage to put all her big story ideas to paper and finally write that book. Follow her on twitter @ErinHolt615.
Photo by Faith Sundquist.