Confessions of a flawed hero

It’s official. I am not her hero any more. I thought I would have had more time. But seven years is all I got.

Photo of Sarah Badat Richardson and daughter with Halloween Costumes
Our Halloween costumes were not the scariest part of Halloween night for me.

Halloween was last night.
For the past three years, we’ve gone to the same neighborhood a few minutes drive from our house. Before sunset, everyone costumed gathers for an informal parade down the loop. Then it’s on with trick or treating. The majority of houses are decorated and their friendly owners give away candy generously. (Not that we eat any.) We always have a blast and enjoy socializing. This time, we met a particularly lovely couple who struck up a conversation after hearing us converse in French with our daughter. Said daughter had a wonderful time petting their two dogs and was invited inside to meet the two cats and two chickens that also belonged to the family. The woman, Christine, had a very cheerful, sweet disposition and my daughter was clearly smitten as they discussed their shared love for animals and discovered they both were vegetarian.

We chatted for over half an hour and finally made it home, content after an evening spent as a family in good fun. (My husband actually canceled work for the evening to be with us).
My daughter reminisced with a big smile on her face and the first words she uttered were: “Oh, Christine was sooo nice! And her voice is so sweet! Such a sweet sweet voice! I wish she was my mother!”

“Oh yeah?” is all I could mutter back.

My daughter went on babbling, completely oblivious of the pain she had just inflicted to her mama’s heart. She hadn’t meant to hurt me. But the words were said and have hung on prickly pins inside my heart ever since.

Maybe, another mom, a more secure mom, could have brushed them off with a smile, or even a hearty laugh. Not I.

I am so aware of my shortcomings as a mother, it’s hard not to take her passing comment very personally indeed.
As someone whose own mother once told her: “If I could do it again, I wouldn’t have any children”- which I translated as “you’re a deficient child”– it’s hard to stomach my daughter’s “I wish she was my mother”– which I’m translating as “you’re a deficient mother”.

Sure, she didn’t say she hates me… I am bracing myself, for I am almost certain the day will come.
Judging by the tears I shed last night, that day might actually break my heart.

This is good you might say. This is useful information. My daughter wants me to speak in a sweeter tone of voice, I can do that…
Except I can’t. I’ve tried (and failed) so many times.
Everyone who knows (and likes me) would not name gentleness as my strong point. People generally find out pretty fast that I have a good heart but I am undeniably rough around the edges. In the case of Nature versus Nurture, Nurture (or more accurately lack thereof) won. I am a product of my upbringing and my culture and neither were big on “sweet”. It is perceived as weakness. Nowadays, I don’t actually believe that but my emotions have not yet caught up with my brain and most of the time I revert to my default settings.
Clearly, my daughter is not a big fan.

I’m not sure what to do. Right now I’m simply focusing on sleeping enough, eating well and exercising, all of which goes a long way in making me a nicer human.
Beyond that, I’m not sure if I’ll ever succeed in transforming into the mother I so desperately want to be and my daughter so desperately needs.
I was estranged from my mother for six years before she died. I, better than anyone else, know that a mother-daughter relationship is not a given.

I know I’ll continue to try hard and I know that I’ll make some progress and that’s better than nothing. But whether or not it will be enough…

…only the future will tell.


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