Well, What Do You Want Me To Say?
11th Sep 2010 in Personal
My mother, like most parents, thinks her children are miracles. Everything that I do is not an achievement on my part, but just a manifestation of that in-born miraculous nature. When I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I was just doing exactly what she knew I would do. When I graduated with distinction with my Masters degree, she was unsurprised. When I won the New Writers Award or the Gillian Purvis Award or blah blah blah, she would have expected nothing less. Every time I get a story published – well, she birthed talent, didn’t she?
This bothers me. I may appear to be an adult, but really I’m just a small child jumping up and down to get a pat on the head from my mum. Just once, I’d like her to dance around and shriek MY DAUGHTER IS BRILLIANT and then go and tell all the neighbours. But she’s not much of a shrieker.
My girlfriend Susie’s mum, in contrast, is utterly floored by everything that Susie does. When she graduated from graphic design school, her mum was amazed. When she got a job as a graphic designer, her mum was astounded. When she got a better job with a better graphic design company, her mum just couldn’t believe it was possible. When she plays the guitar or paints a picture or programmes a website, her mum gapes open-mouthed in wonder that a child of hers could do such things. Susie does not like this. She thinks it suggests that her mum thinks she’s an idiot, and anything she achieves is laudable because holy crap this fool did something good.
I’m jealous of the way Susie’s mum is so impressed by all of her achievements.
Susie is jealous of the way my mum thinks I can achieve anything.
Whoever we’re trying to impress – and don’t lie, there’s always someone – they’re never quite as impressed as we’d like them to be. But really, what do we want them to say? If my mum fainted in amazement every time I got a Facebook friend request, I would be annoyed. If Susie’s mum just shrugged and made a cup of tea every time she got a freelance job, Susie would be annoyed. Whatever the level of enthusiasm, it’s not quite right. Jumping and screaming seems insincere, and anything less is underwhelming.
So I am trying to appreciate what I get from my mum. I am a big girl, after all, and she can’t be patting me on the head forever. Sometimes when I meet someone new or meet up with family I haven’t seen for a while, they know all about what I’ve been doing. My mum does think I’m worth bragging about. And if I ever get shortlisted for the Orange Prize I know she’ll be in the audience clapping until her hands go numb, so I’ll just wait until then. Any day now…