My relationship with my mother isn’t perfect. Nor do I ever expect that it will be. But she's still the core of my being – of who I am and why I am the way I am today. She has been the most influential role in my life, in both negative and positive ways.
After having been raised by my single mother in one of the least-safe, run down suburbs of Brisbane with my younger brother for a best friend, I learned quickly that life wasn’t ever easy for my mother and to appreciate the little things that we had. My mother, having to raise her first child (myself) at the young age of 19 in 1991, meant that she had to sacrifice a lot of her own life to make it work.
However, in December of 2006, a month after I had turned 15, my mother left for the United States in pursuit of a 21-year-old man she met online, leaving behind me, my brother, and sister to fend for ourselves with my grandmother. I’ve lived with my grandmother my whole life, but she’s always been old and frail, incapable of taking care of three young children. We all waited, eagerly anticipating my mother’s return after three months when her traveling visa would expire and we’d get to see her again.
However, when she did return, it wasn’t to the happy family reunion I had expected. She loved being in America, and she loved being with him. She hadn’t even stayed two weeks before she was on a plane again returning to see him. We asked her to stay and she promised she would be back again after another three months. They got married on the eve of her three-month expiration date and she gained permanent residency in the USA because of her marriage. It’s been six years and I haven’t seen her since.
At times, I honestly used to think that not having my mother around for the majority of my teenage years was pretty amazing. I was able to dictate and direct my own life and make my own choices in whatever I wanted to do. Being unable to attend all-girl sleepover and birthday parties (despite them all having strict-parental supervision) became a thing of the past and I was able to eat whatever I wanted for dinner. Suddenly there were no rules or regulations. I could hang out at the shopping center every day after school and have 50 cent cones like everyone else did. I didn’t have to turn down my music at home. I was able to have my first boyfriend. And I’d be doomed if I didn’t attend every single one of my friends’ birthday parties, movie marathons and sleepovers that year – simply because I could. And my mother would never know, nor care much about it at all. Consequently, I admit that Grade 11 probably became the best year of my entire schooling life.
It wasn’t that my grandma had no authority over me, she did, but she was never one to discipline and reinforce anything. And she always trusted that whatever choices I made (whether it be deciding to go to a friend’s house on the weekend or to not do my homework), I would make knowing the consequences and that God would always keep me safe and show me the right path. And sometimes I did make the wrong decisions, but I would always learn from my mistakes.
Throughout the months, my mother and I would keep in touch frequently online. One day she asked me whether she could borrow quite a large sum of the money I had personally saved so that she could buy a return airfare to Australia to visit during Christmas and attend my senior graduation. I loaned her the money and she never visited that Christmas. Nor for my graduation or any of the Christmases afterwards. And I never did see that money again.
It was at this snapping point in my life that the relationship between my mother and I took a turning point and has never really been the same since. I felt myself lose some of the respect I held for her as a parental figure, a role model, as someone I could depend on and ultimately trust. The feelings of resentment and bitterness hit home. Though we still talk today, our relationship has never recovered and we now treat each other more like distant sisters.
Whenever I explained my situation to new friends they would think that I was so lucky. That I had something to envy, having an absent mother and being able to lead my own life as I wanted. And I suppose that in some aspects, they were right. But at the same time, I lost so much more than I gained from not having her as part of my life.
I never had anybody to share the news of my first kiss with and I never had anybody to guide or teach me how to dress. I never had anybody to hug or seek comfort in and nobody to see me cry. I never had anybody in whom to confide my schooling dramas or gossip to over dinner. I never had any parental figure attend any of my special ceremonies or congratulate me whenever I accomplished anything at all. I had nobody to discuss my future options with and nobody to fuss over how messy my room was. Ultimately, I grew up alone with my siblings who were just as equally alone as I was.
In a lot of ways, my grandmother has always been my real mother. She’s always done so much more for me than my actual mother has. And although all my friends complain and wish that their mothers would disappear and get off their backs for a few years, I know that they’re just words because nothing can ever really make up for a mother’s love—except for that of my Father’s.