Although I’m now in my early twenties, my teenage years seem like just yesterday. Even though that time of my life doesn’t seem at all removed from who I am now, there are parts that I’m glad I’ve outgrown. One of those parts is the frequent bickering with my Mum.
Mum and I are so similar it’s as though we’re twin sisters and not mother and daughter sometimes.
Our similarities mean that our house is filled with double the amount of fiery, stubborn and argumentative character.
I’m an only child, and it’s just Mum and me in our little home. We struggled when I was younger. Me with learning to grow into an adult that does stuff for myself, and Mum with letting go of the childhood of her only child.
My parents split when I was eight years old and Mum single-handedly raised me. Only now, as I venture into my own adulthood, can I fully appreciate that. I became an angry child, craving my Dad’s attention and taking my feelings out on my Mum, completely unaware that she also was suffering heartbreak.
Things only got worse in my teenage years. I was never interested in drugs or alcohol, and I came home at a reasonable hour and did really well in school. But oh, how we argued. The mother-daughter arguments were a constant. Whether it was my dishes in the sink or being late to leave the house in the morning, each day, without fail, there was a row. And each day Mum swore she wouldn’t take me to school the next if I couldn’t be on time, or that she wouldn’t cook my dinner if I couldn’t wash up. But she still did.
When my first boyfriend came to stay and Mum insisted he sleep in the spare room, I protested and built a den with him in the living room. Looking back, I can’t believe she kept coping with such a defiant daughter.
I can’t count the times we slammed doors in each other’s faces or sobbed ourselves to sleep post-argument, but I know that it’s not nearly as many times as we’ve told each other “I love you.”
I don’t love anybody more in this world, but I deeply craved my own identity and wanted so badly to be respected.
When I got into university, we seemed to argue less. I chose to live at home. Not because of free rent or an easy life, but because I couldn’t bear to be away from Mum. At the time I wondered if I’d made the right choice. Living together as a young adult and parent can have a confusing dynamic. Where does childhood end?
We continued to argue about things like the use of my phone, cleaning my room, and when I would finally be allowed to get a dog. We fell into a vicious circle because I didn’t know how to stop being a child when Mum was still treating me like one. In fact, I often shouted at her, “If you’re going to say I’m acting like a child, then I may as well act like one!”
Eventually, something clicked and we realized what we were doing.
It became clear that the reason we fought over such silly things was because of how much we loved each other. I would never care about anybody else not liking my outfit for a night out or my new interior design choice like I would Mum. And she would never stop trying to make sure my life was as happy, healthy and perfect as she always dreamed for her only child. Even more than that, there was a residual fear of being abandoned by Mum like I had by Dad, and Mum wanted to bubble wrap me from anything bad happening to me.
Once we understood that we were fighting because of how much we craved each other’s understanding and agreement, we became able to discuss our concerns with compassion. Fights are now resolved pretty quickly, and usually end with one of us begging for a hug and repeating how sorry we are.
I understand now that all those lessons from my mother about money-saving, cleaning, and even how important it is to be reliable to those around me, were more valuable than any I’d paid for at university. She knows me better than I know myself, and she guided me through every stage of my life. I see now that everything happened just as it should.