I love my mom tremendously, but I think the ever expanding amount of respect I have for her is more telling of the amazing person that she is. Sometimes people wish they could stop loving their parents, for whatever reason, but love stubbornly remains. Respect must be earned regardless of your relation to someone else, and for that reason alone, I think it is one of the most powerful forces that exists.
I am twenty-three now and the ways that my mom has enhanced my own self-respect are still revealing themselves to me. Like many mothers, mine has cherished the childhood artwork made by my brother and I; she is set apart by the fact that the majority of the art on the walls of my parent’s house is made by us. I can honestly say that some of it is terrible, but that never mattered. I grew up with my own accomplishments physically surrounding me and reminding me that I was capable of making beautiful things, that I was important, and that my parents were proud of me.
I had a boy’s bowl-cut until I was in fifth grade. I didn’t really care about my hair so my mom had my hair cut like hers, which has been short her entire life. Unsurprisingly, I was constantly referred to as “little fellow,” “son,” “young man,” despite what I was wearing. Rather than making me feel small, these incorrect names taught me that I needed to assert my identity in the world at a really young age. I vividly recall yelling “I’m a girl!!!” at any adult that didn’t bother to take more than one single second to actually see me, rather than acting meekly as most girls are expected to. My mom was bothered by people calling me a boy, but she loved to watch me correct them in my boisterous style. I was responsible for standing up for myself, and each time I did it made me feel like I was soaring. Now when I hear about the benefits of a gender-neutral environment for children, I remember how my “boy” hair helped me find myself, a strong and capable woman. I have my mom to thank yet again.
My mom has always been the most determined and hard working person that I know. Growing up, I only had one friend whose mom worked full time, like mine. I could sense my other friends pitying me because my grandma cared for me after school while my mom was at work. Truthfully, I have never felt neglected by my mom’s work schedule. On the contrary, I had the privilege of being raised by a woman who was a force in her field, who had a life all her own outside of her family, who didn’t compromise between what she loved and who she loved. As a kid, I never thought there were things a woman couldn’t do compared to a man because I had a brilliant role model right in front of me everyday.
My mom is my rock, and she is my brother’s and my dad’s too. She has a fierce loyalty to the things and people that matter to her, and I am so lucky to be one of those people. My relationship with her isn’t perfect (nothing is) but what she has given me far outweighs any issues we have had. Of course both of my parents took wonderful care of me, but my mom helped me learn to love myself, a powerful feat for any person. Her strength is so intense it is almost devastatingly so; my respect for her is boundless.