On being ... a daughter

By Ingrid Sapona

We play a lot of different roles in our life – friend, lover, worker, student just to name a few. Today I’m writing about a role I’ve had since the moment I was born: the role of daughter. The idea’s been forefront in my mind the past couple months because in early January my mother was hospitalized, then in re-hab, and in mid-January she passed away. Dad passed away in 2004 and so now, with Mom’s death, my role as daughter has changed. Perhaps it’s died – I don’t know… To be honest, I’m kind of hoping that by the end of this column I’ll be a wee bit closer to figuring that out – or at least to coming to terms with it.

It’s funny because being someone’s child is one of the few roles in life that happens not as a result of anything we do. But – like other roles we take on in life – what we make of it is largely up to us. Like most kids, I wasn’t concerned with what kind of a daughter I was until I became and adult.  
Unlike some women who seem to have a fraught relationship with their mother, I had what I considered a very normal relationship with mine. Put another way, she was neither my best friend nor my nemesis. She was my mom.

Yes, she was sometimes critical of me but – for the most part – about things that didn’t really count. (You know the kind of thing I’m talking about: “You’re wearing THAT?” Or, “Did you forget to brush your hair this morning?”) When the criticism was about something more consequential, I know it came from a kind place. More importantly, regardless of whether I accepted or rejected the unspoken advice often contained within her critique, I knew that our relationship was strong enough to weather it.

She was supportive, but I wouldn’t describe her as a cheerleader. Instead, she supported me in ways that she was able to – in ways she felt comfortable with. Of course, there were times when I resented that she didn’t blindly cheer me on. But, her failure to do so wasn’t indicative of a lack of support – it was her way of trying to prevent me from disappointment or outright failure.

From a young age, I know she believed in me. And, as odd as it may sound, sometimes her belief in me made me uncomfortable because it felt unearned. But, whenever I said something to that effect, she seemed to double down, reminding me of past successes despite what may have been long odds. While I wish I could say her belief in me instilled in me tremendous self-confidence – it didn’t. But, it played into my “can do” approach toward challenges. (Ironically, despite her unwavering belief in my abilities – that didn’t translate to her (or anyone else in the family) – “believing me” when I offered my opinion or put in my two cents. But, that’s a topic best reserved for another column. Suffice it to say, however irksome that fact is – I chalk it up to being the youngest, which of course, is another role I was born into.)

Though I know Mom and Dad did all they did for me unconditionally, I felt the least I could give in return was to try to be a good daughter. And, though I was touched by the many people who commented to me over the years that I was a good daughter – respectfully, that never mattered much to me. Though I know Mom and Dad were proud of me, doing things that outsiders might see as a source of parental pride was the easy part.

The part I struggled more with was being the kind of daughter I thought Mom and Dad were worthy of – that they deserved. And so, the bar was high – it was based on how terrific they were to me as parents. Indeed, there were lots of times when I’d be driving back to Toronto after a visit with Mom and I’d be frustrated and angry with myself for not being the daughter I wanted to be. Why did I get impatient with her? Why did I have to argue about this or that? Why did I contradict her? Why couldn’t I have been nicer? Or sweeter? Did I do enough? Yes, there were many tear-filled, post-visit rides when I felt inadequate as a daughter.

Ironically, the last visit I had with Mom before Christmas I drove home so happy. We had had a really lovely day together. I think both of us felt that…. On that ride home I thought, “wow, maybe I’m finally getting the ‘daughter thing’.” And this past Christmas was also an exceptionally enjoyable time with Mom. The weather was mild and my sister and I managed to get Mom out to visit some friends and even out to a restaurant – rather than simply taking the dinner to go. And, when we weren’t out visiting, we played games and relaxed, simply enjoying each other’s company.

I’m grateful that Mom and I had that special day together in December – that day that made me think that maybe I was the daughter she deserved – and that her last Christmas was good. But, I miss her and – selfishly – I feel sad that there won’t be any more opportunities for me to practice being a good daughter.

So, as I end this column, I’ve come to realize that to the outside world, I’m no longer a daughter. But, because Mom and Dad are with me with every beat of my heart, on the inside I’ll always be their daughter and hopefully I’ll uphold their legacy in a way that would make them proud and happy.

© 2020 Ingrid Sapona


Post a Comment

<< Home