Why I live my life for my mamá

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

By Bernardita Yunis

For a writer, I could not have struggled more with getting words down on paper for this post. I consider my Mother to be the most important person in my life, the reason for my being, and the answer to all my questions about why I am the way I am. I am aware that it is not always healthy to live our lives for our parents, but on a basic level, whether rational or wise or not, I live my life for her.

And when she’s given everything for my life, how can I not live for her?

So how do I begin to write about this woman that gives life to my blood (both in pride and in rage when she makes my blood boil)? How do I put the proverbial pen to paper to say any words about Mom?

Mi mamá is the oldest of eight children. She is beautiful, and adored by many, yet only had one boyfriend before meeting my father. She is brilliant and her first true love is her career in biochemistry and immunology—a career she gave up when we moved to the States because my dad's job transferred him here. My mother works incredibly hard. First in her class in school, she was also voted everyone's favorite friend. Her childhood was shortened because she had to help care for and raise her siblings and was a “mother” far earlier than when she actually bore her own children. And she’s been a mother to more than just the four of us that actually lived inside her womb for nine months each.

This mother taught five (or more) of us how to be responsible, loving, kind, caring, hardworking adults. She is what I will forever be proudest of in all of my life—of all my achievements, this will always be the greatest: I am her daughter. I get to live my life as a reflection of her.

And the most irritatingly, painstakingly, frustrating thing of all is that it doesn't matter how much we say it, or what I do to prove to her that she has done an incredible job as a mother, or what I may give in life to make her proud—my Mother does not see her hand in it. She will see our faltering and feel responsible, seeing it as evidence that she has been a poor mother. And despite knowing her children are incredible successes, she cannot see how she is responsible for that.

My mother bears burdens. My mother hides the weight of her history and pain, life's private shames and difficulties, and bears it silently, always shielding us from it. My mother is a fort protecting us. My mother doesn't realize that she doesn't have to get it all right, because parenting is hard, and no one reaches that perfection—but she has come damn close. My mother expects the best from herself and doesn't realize she transferred that drive to her children as well. She feels our heartbreaks and celebrates in our joys. My mother is passionate, outspoken, emotional, and the most loving individual I have ever met. She is friends with all those that cross her path. Her heart is a fountain pouring out love that reaches far and wide. And she doesn’t see that it is her vulnerability that causes her great pains at the sight of deceit and the disappointment of unmet expectations.

Mi mamita wants nothing more than to have all her children well, happy, and close. She is replenished by hugs and kisses and visceral love. She taught me how to give real kisses with umph, and not the kind of meek “grandma kisses” her mother usually gives out of fear that you might break or crack like crystal. She is the energy that sustains me, the arms that hold me in my pain, heal me in my illness, and wash over me with pride and happiness in my joys. I live for those hugs, that comfort, and that love that pours out so willingly, so openly, so intensely. 

Bernardita Yunis a woman and a daughter, a friend and a sister, and a YP4 alum. "I am a kayak, hear me roar."

This blog post is part of the Strong Families Mama’s Day Our Way celebration. You can read more posts in the series on the Strong Families blogStrong Families is a national initiative led by Forward Together. Our goal is to change the way people think, act and talk about families.

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