The day I flew home from vacation, my mother and I got into a massive fight. The kind of fight where doors slam and expletives are thrown at each other like weapons. The kind where my mother sobs and I bite my lip so hard it bleeds. The kind of fight we used to have when I was sixteen.
Like most fights, it started over a simple miscommunication. Apparently, while I was away Archer slept through the night, ate everything that was put in front of him and was happy and perfect and wonderful and "the most pleasurable human being to be around."
His perfect behavior ended the second I came home when immediately Archer turned to tantrums, refused to sleep or eat anything but cheerios.
"While you were gone I gave him 100% of my attention," my mother said. "Maybe that's why he was so good."
I took this to mean that because I was unable to give Archer 100% of my attention, I was a shitty mother and therefore my child hated me and refused to sleep or eat or be happy and that one day he would grow up to curse the day he had ever been born because I was unable to be the kind of mother my mom was, the kind who dropped everything for her children, whose world revolved around them...
That was when I exploded...
"Well, I'm sorry that I can't be the mother you were, okay?"
My mother then exploded back. Because that was not what she meant. Of course it wasn't. But I was inconsolable and hysterical and felt compelled to take all of my shit out on her. I had so much on my mind, so many secrets I was sick and tired of keeping. Bottles of anger and fear and emotion I hadn't the chance to expel until that moment.
And it felt good.
As a teenager, these epic mother-daughter battles would always end with my mother and I side by side on my bed, telling each other our secrets. I would open my journal up to her and read her my bad poetry until the sun rose and sometimes we would just lie next to one another, eyes swollen shut from crying, voices gone from screaming, holding hands and humming along to the stereo.
It had been years since we stayed up all night, fighting and screaming and crying and hugging and whispering.
"It's a school night," she would say. "You need to get up early." Except we'd keep talking. Because it felt good.
"Archer will be up, soon," She said to me the other night. "You really need your sleep." Eventually I did go to sleep. And I slept. I really slept, with a clear head and a free heart.
I have written many a time here and elsewhere about my fear of one day having a daughter. I believe in the bond between mother and son and always thought I would be a better mother with boys because I'm a better friend to boys and most often prefer their company over that of women. I was always afraid that I might give birth to myself, that karma would be the bitch that came back to haunt me. That one day like me, my daughter would turn 16 and go wild.
But in retrospect there was a lot more to my teenage-hood than that. There was a lot more to my relationship with my mother and her relationship with me...
There was an open window and two silhouettes holding hands through the night. And the one on the left was the daughter, telling her mother everything-- all her deepest secrets and the things she had kept even from herself. And on the right was the mother and all her wisdom and love, telling me everything would be okay.
And for the first time in my life, side by side next to my mother, stinking still of vodka tonics and cigarette smoke from my getaway, I looked up at the glow-in-the-dark stars of my old bedroom ceiling and thought, "maybe it wouldn't be so bad to have a daughter, someday." And I thought about collecting her secrets and sharing my stories with her.
And then I thought about being the kind of mom my mother was for me, for Archer and the possible children of Christmas future, the kind of mother you can have a breakdown with and be mended back with love, as a child, a teenager and even as an adult.
Because sometimes mothers need their mothers, too.