I was doing an interview this morning for a profile I’m working on for my day job — don’t want to spill my own beans now, but I’ll link to it (if I’ve figured out how to do that by then) when I’m done, it’s a story about an artist here in Phoenix whose art is related to her kids — when I was reminded of a quote from my mother that I typed out and emailed to myself a few months ago.
The profile subject was talking about her mentor, a woman very accomplished in their mutual chosen craft, photography, and remarked that the mentor gave her something neither of her parents had given her: in short, a tough time. The mentor challenged her to work harder, questioned her art, pushed her. Refused her unconditional love.
I thought about that, and said (I’m bad at just listening during interviews, I always babble about myself), “Well, isn’t that the role of the parent, to give unconditional love?”
I told the artist about my own mother. “No matter what I write, on any topic, she’ll call to say, ‘That was the most beautiful thing anyone has ever written!’ And she’ll mean it.”
I didn’t add that it can get a little daunting, all that love. If you’re as insecure as I am, it turns back on itself, rendering all compliments worthless. (See? Motherhood is a thankless task.) But I do think it’s the best way to parent — as long as it’s legit. You gotta feel the love; you can’t lie.
It wasn’t til I had my own kids that I got it. (No duh. What an obvious thing to say. But true.) I stare at Annabelle and Sophie, marveling, completely convinced that such beautiful, sweet, smart girls have never before existed. The sweep of Annabelle’s brow, the curve of Sophie’s cheek. They are so exquisite, it almost hurts to look at them.
Funny — show me a photograph of either kid and their flaws pop out. But in person, perfection. Maybe that’s something I should ask that photographer about.
Oh, back to the quote from my mom. We were out to lunch, splitting an order of roast chicken and corn tortillas. I’m not sure of the exact topic we were on when she said it, but I wrote down the quote. I mean, wouldn’t you have written it down? You tell me if this is not the nicest compliment a mother has ever received from her own mother:
“If I were to come back in another life, I’d want to be your daughter.”