Not all Mexican mothers fulfill the stereotype of love and passivity. Mine is a story of grit, crying, and chipping away at my education and finding myself.
While in college I came to call my mother by her first name. After the many instances, examples, and experiences of showing me who she was, I finally believed her. I now painfully understand she was not my mami, had not been for a while, for many years. Even though, I wanted her to be my mami, she did not want to, could not, or was unable to. For some reason, she always said I was independent. I believe she thought I did not need her. I know now she said this for herself. And there it is, my explaining away my mother’s inability to mother me. Yet, she was able to mother my younger siblings. Yes, they were needier. Yes, we were so different. Yes, we looked nothing alike. But, I am my father’s daughter. I look like my aunt, my father’s sister, and sometimes there’s glimpses of my mother in my face.
Today, my siblings describe her as wonderful, and the best mother and grandmother ever. I listen and think I have no idea who they are talking about. I do not know that person.
My mother was a young parent, as if that were an excuse for her aloofness. My parents were in their 20s and still wanted to do other things, rather than stay home with the kids. They wanted to go out without us. That’s my method of operation working full speed to try to make them seem not so awful. In today’s terms and the world of CPS, they would be considered unfit.
I think about my young daughter, and her realizing she needs me. I stayed home with her, put her to bed, tucked her in, read books to her, did homework after school, and we hung out. We played tea party, beauty shop, board games, and just did nothing together. I do not remember any of these activities with my mother. When I started calling her by her first name, at first she was surprised, but then accepted it. It was as if she knew that title did not belong to her. That was what she called her mother. It’s like if she knew that she would never fit that void, that space, my mother’s place. To this day I still call her by her first name. It’s been about 30 years. I thought it would continue to be painful to admit, but it has gotten easier over the years.
Watching my daughter grow up, calling me momma, validates my parenting and every little action and big choice I made that goes with that. With no positive role model, I still knew what to do. For that I do thank her, for being aloof, and making me loving and thoughtful. For showing me exactly what I did not want to do or be, and for the blind unforeseen guidance her mothering taught me. Watching her made me aware of what I wanted and needed. I always thought and knew I would do everything she did not do. I would say everything she did not say. I would love my daughter, tell her I loved her, and she would always know I loved her. I would always tell my daughter she was loved. And I do, I always tell my daughter I love her. It is now too late for her to be my mami. When the opportunities arrive, she still chooses not to. I am okay with that. I have to be.
Like This? Then Read This >>>My Mami’s Hands by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez
Dr. Diana D Gunnoe
Mother, Mexican American Studies advocate & teacher