Does My Mother Love My Daughter More Than She Loves Me?

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Is it possible that my mother loves my daughter more than she loves, or has ever, loved me? I know, intellectually, this can’t be true, but the proof sometimes, well, it proves otherwise. And if actions speak louder than words, than this may be completely the case.

I can’t remember even one time – ever – that my mother has told me she loves me. Swear on my daughter’s life, to this day, my mother has never said those three words to me. My mother was born of a generation, I suppose, or in a household, where the word “love” wasn’t used as it is in mine. In my household, I tell my daughter I love her about 126 times a day. The word “love” is used liberally, to say the least.

I’ll say to my daughter, “Can you get me that fork? I love you.” Or, “Let’s go brush our teeth. I love you.”

Most definitely, because my own parents never told me they love me (and still don’t), I overcompensate and tell my daughter I love her every chance I get. (“You found a leaf? I love you!”) I think many parents treat and raise their children differently than their own parents raised them. Your parents were too laid back? You make more of a routine for your children. Your parents had too much of a routine? You’re more laid back with your own.

There were other changes in my mother that came along with getting the title “Grandmother,” when my daughter was born seven years ago.

It’s not that I’m envious of the relationship my mother has with my daughter – shock would be a more appropriate description. Almost every time they get together, I find myself thinking, “That’s not my mother! Who is this woman in my mother’s body?”

I was allowed McDonald’s once a year growing up. My mother takes my daughter to McDonald’s before my daughter can finish the words, “I want a Happy Meal.” They hit the Yellow Glowing Arches almost every time they get together.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t suffer growing up. I had piano lessons, went to overnight camp, had sleepovers and birthday parties. But there was no way my mother would take me into a toy store and buy me a toy car that lights up just because I saw it on a television commercial (as she did for my daughter). It cost close to $100 and didn’t even closely resemble what it was meant to do. If I had asked for one of those as a child, I’d get a lecture on how things don’t look as good as they do on television and, also, a straight out, ‘No.’

Part of the problem, if it can be called that, is that my mother had four children within five years. I grew up with three brothers. And I really wasn’t spoiled because I was the only girl. If anything, because I was a “high achieving” only girl, I often was forgotten about entirely. “Her?” I can picture my parents saying, “She can take care of herself. We don’t need to worry about her!” Also, perhaps money was more of an issue back then. With four children, that’s four times the cost of everything. That’s four Happy Meals instead of one.

And, of course, things had to be run strictly or else it would have been mayhem (I can see this now with friends who have more then two children.)

But now, when I tell my parents we have to go because it’s a “school night” and I have to get Rowan to bed, they’ll wave me off and say, “She can stay up a bit longer.” (Like I said, who are these people?)

When we’d go to the cottage when I was a child, there was no way I’d have my own pink Barbie fishing rod (like my parents bought especially for my daughter). I’d have a hand-me-down from one of my brothers or my father. When we went to visit museums or other child-friendly destinations with gift shops, I never walked out with anything, unlike my daughter who always walks out with a stuffed toy, or T-shirt, or some memorabilia of the place that my parents are only too happy to buy for her.

Because my daughter is seven and has started to talk about boys and is starting to get into fashion, my mother compliments her on her manicures (five different colors for every nail.) I wasn’t allowed to get a manicure until I was 13 and that was only for my Bat Mitzvah. My mother asks – actually asks! – my daughter about the boys in her class.

When my mother has us over for dinner and my daughter announces she’d rather have pasta even though there’s a table full of deli, my mother jumps up and makes my daughter her desired order. But I remember my mother yelling, “If you don’t like what I made for dinner then you’re not going to eat at all!” (Thus my life-long aversion to tuna melts and fish sticks.)

Make no mistake. My parents are the best grandparents any kid could only dream of. But they are not my parents, at least not when they are in grandparent-mode. I don’t know these people when they are around my daughter.

When they speak on the phone, I overhear my mother say, “I love you, Rowan” to my daughter and my heart cracks for two reasons: One, because I’m not sure why they can’t say those words to me. Second, it breaks because they can say it to my daughter with ease and in a way I see this as progress. My daughter will never know how it feels to not hear those words. Maybe someday I will.

Maybe my parents have regrets about not saying “I love you” to me or not talking about clothes and boys with me. And so when they tell my daughter they love her or talk about clothes and boys with her, maybe it’s their way of telling me they love me and that they wish our relationship could be more open.

Maybe they have regrets? My parents have certainly taught me how to be a good parent in different ways. They taught me about routines and how to get my daughter to read and numerous art projects I’d never have known about.

And maybe I taught my mother something when she sees how often I hug and kiss my daughter and tell her I love her.

Do you find that you’re parents have completely changed since becoming grandparents? Are my parents making up for lost time, or are they simply being grandparents? Thoughts?

(Photos: Jupiterimages)