I received lots of lovely messages on my birthday last Friday and have so much to be grateful for in the year ahead.

But there was no call, SMS, card or e-mail from my mom.

I called her on Saturday to check that they’re OK. And yes, of course they were. My parents were having fun at dad’s school reunion. I didn’t mention the forgotten birthday and Mom finally called yesterday to say she realized that she’d forgotten. I changed the subject to my little girl as soon as possible, as I didn’t know what to say and would rather talk about sunny, happy things (our long history taught me this survival tactic).

Surely it’s no big deal when your mother forgets about your 37th birthday. I’m a big girl. I have a husband who loves me dearly, a delightful baby girl and a tiny blessing on the way.

It’s just that my relationship with my mom seems best explained by these words of a Laurika Rauch song.

DIE BOOT WAT IN DIE SEE VERDWAAL
DIE WIND WAT DEUR DIE BRANDERS MAAL
SONDER SEILE TEEN DIE WIND
SKOMMEL ONS
SONDER OM MEKAAR TE VIND

IN DIE WATERS WILD KAN ONS VERSINK
IN DIE DONKER SEE SAL ONS VERDRINK
SONDER SEILE TEEN DIE WIND
SKOMMEL ONS
SONDER OM MEKAAR TE VIND

KAN ONS WEET OF SAL ONS RAAI
HOE VIND ONS OOIT ‘N KALM BAAI
SONDER SEILE TEEN DIE WIND
SKOMMEL ONS
SONDER OM MEKAAR TE VIND

SAL ONS OOIT DIE LAND KAN HAAL
IS ONS IN DIE SEE VERDWAAL
SONDER SEILE
SKOMMEL ONS

Woorde en Musiek: Pieter J. Swanepoel/Peter McLea

(You can listen to a snippet of the song here – select track 10.)

Now that I’m a mom who totally, absolutely adores my little girl, I feel even more distant from my own mother. It makes even less sense that I so seldom felt loved by her. Her journey through post-natal depression wasn’t tempered by anti-depressants, as mine was – but still, was I really such an unlovable baby, tot, child, teen, woman..? Or was I emotionally so warped that I was unable to recognize that she loved me?

After the birth of my baby, those childhood memories that still haunt me seemed to become more vivid, alive and taunting than ever. I so intensely remember the years of tiptoeing through our house and through my life, of being scared I would be noticed. Scared that mom might suddenly and without warning lash out and start screaming at me like a berserk banshee.

All I know for sure is that I’ve given my all over the years to try and make my mom like me – as pathetic as this might be. I’ve even named my beloved little girl, the most precious gift I’ve ever received, after her – largely because it was the right thing to do as per our strong family traditions.

Also, I know that in her own way, she tried to be the best mother to me and my (too many) siblings that she could be.


I choose to look at it like this: My mother might not be the best mom there is, but she’s the best mother I’ll ever have. Therefore I’ll try to always be the best daughter to her that I can possibly be.

Surely any other path could only lead to more regret.

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