When growing up we tend to look at our parets as parents and not as actual human beings. We judge them based on what we think a parent should and shouldn’t do and we tend to forget that they were just like us once. Perhaps. My mom had me when she was 21, which is about 4 years younger than I am now, yet I expected her to have all the answers throughout my whole life. What did I know about the world when I was 21? Not much, I have come to realize, so how could I expect my mom to act correctly in every situation? The answer is simple. Because she was (and is) my mother. Mothers are supposed to know. Mothers are grown-ups. Mothers know everything. It isn’t until recently that the truth has caught up with me and I have come to understand that she as well as my dad had lives of their own before me. They haven’t always been parents.
It was about two years ago that I started taking an interest in my parents as people – individuals – rather than just the people who gave me life. I thought about my own friends, those I went out with on the weekends and gossiped with over phone and Facebook and I wondered what it would have been like if my parents had been part of my social circle. …If they hadn’t been my parents and if I would have met them right before they had me. Before they became parents.
I had never known much about my parents life outside of the parenting bubble. My mom had always tried her hardest to be a good role model; stubbornly refusing to admit to having done anything out of the ordinary while growing up. She spent a lot of time panting a picture for my sisters and I of how she had always wanted to be a mother, how she hadn’t been much of a party girl and how having kids was all she had ever dreamed of. It didn’t leave much room for us to imagine her as a teenager, because after all – that was what she was up until a couple of years before having me.
That was when I discovered her old diaries. I am not proud to say that I read her diaries – a diary is private and should be respected – but I also can’t deny the fact that I am glad that I did. Reading my mom’s personal entries allowed me to get to know her in a whole new way. She became a real person to me and not just a mother.
My mom kept a diary for years before having me, quite impressive really, which gave me the opportunity to dive straight into her teenage years. What I found was amusing, clever, enlightening and… surprising! All the things she had told us turned out to be true, because yes – she seemed to have wanted to become a mother since she was more or less 12. Crazy, if you ask me, but who am I to judge? She had, however, left out quite a few things. There it was; tales of how she had also dreamed of becoming a singer! I had never heard her sing in the 20+ years that I had been alive. What had happened to that dream? There were also mentionings about different boyfriends, boys she had a crush on and summer flings that appeared to have been utterly romantic. Mom! I knew nothing of that and nothing of the men in her life before having met dad. All the stories were very innocent, however, and contained mostly dreams and romantic fantasies. Who would have known my mother was such a sucker for romance?
Knowing my mom today, she cares very little about fashion. She rarely spends money on clothes for herself (I am sure she would want to, but she has always spent most of her savings on us) and tends to wear the same until it falls apart. Imagine my surprise when her diaries told me she used to put a lot of effort and thought into her daily outfits. There is one line that I will never forget and that made me giggle. On one page, written when my mother was about 16, it said:
“Gosh, I was so tired this morning and I just wanted to stay in bed. Had to wake up and get ready for school though. Sometimes I wish I could just go to school in my sweat-pants and without doing my hair and make-up, but you can’t really do that when you are one of the popular girls, can you?”
Wait what, my mom was one of the popular girls? Mother dearly, you have been holding out on us. It was such a different side to my mom that I was seeing through her written words, but in the same time it made perfect sense. Knowing those things about who she had been while growing up made me understand why she said and did certain things sometimes. As cheesy as it sounds – it made me understand her better.
I later read the stories of how my parents had known each other for a long time before becoming a couple. I didn’t really know. I read about how my mom had gone to parties with my dad, how my dad had had a little too much to drink (just like any other teenager or young adult) and how she sometimes had snuck out of her house to go see him. Momy! I knew I should have stopped reading at some point, but I couldn’t. Opening that window into my parents youth was one of the most interesting things I have ever done. I have no regrets, even if it makes me a bad person.
The story of how and when my mom fell pregnant with me was in there too. I wasn’t expected. It amazed me though, how that 20 year old version of my mother handled the unexpected pregnancy. She was so happy! From there and on her diary entries were only about me. How excited she was, all the changes her body went through, how much she was looking forward to meeting me and how falling pregnant with me was all she had ever wanted. Her new and sole purpose of life. …I have quite an amazing mother, don’t I?
My mother’s diaries are by far the best literature I have ever read, I can tell you that much. It is not okay to read someone’s personal diary or journal, but I think I needed it. I needed to know a little bit about my parents and who they were before they had me, in order to fully understand who they are now. I am amazed by what I found out. I wish they would have told me more about it while growing up, to be honest. Reading those diaries also made me realize something else. If I ever have kids, I will make sure that they get to know me both as a parent and as a person. I will keep a diary as well, so that they can go back and see what I was like and what my thoughts were. I know my mother meant for me to read the part where she fell pregnant with me, because I have seen her slip copies of those pages into a box I have with old drawings and such. …I don’t think she intended for me to read the rest, though, which is why I will never tell her I did.
The lesson here is to not forget that parents are people too. My advice to everyone is to try and sit down and talk to your parents as the individuals that they are. Find out what they did before having kids, what their dreams were and what they thought their lives would be like. Find out who they were in order to fully see who they are. Imagine if you yourself would have kids (unless you do already), would you (or did you) stop being you? Knowing your parents is a step towards knowing yourself. I am not telling you to read your parent’s diaries if they kept any, but instead I want you to sit down and talk to them. Take interest in them and their lives outside of parenting and see what happens. Don’t waste the opportunity.