Violet Milligan at 17--later my very strong mother

A photo of my mother at 17 that reveals none of her strength


Would’ ve, should ‘ ve, could’ ve. 

Three words that apply to at least some parts of everyone’s life.

Here are ten things I should have told my mother when I was an adult child.

1. I wish you would say you love me.  You never do, you didn’t even when I was a child. I know you love me and you will always help me but it would mean so much to hear you say it. 

2. Thank you for not being demanding in terms of my time.  I am very aware of my obligations to you and Dad and obviously you realize that. You also understand how busy I am with my job and three children and you let me manage my life without adding another layer of guilt and responsiblity. As a result, I don’t resent spending time with you.

3. I wish you would listen more and talk less. Sometimes our conversations seem so one-sided–you do the talking and I do the listening.  I would love it if you would draw me out more.

4. Thank you for being such as strong person.  You know how to stand up for yourself and your strength has stood me in good stead.  When I have something difficult to do, I think of you and march into battle.  I try to draw on Dad’s kindness in lots of situations, but it is your strength I need at my most difficult moments.

5. Sometimes, I feel as if you are competing with me and I wish I understood why.

6. Thank you for keeping whatever marital difficulties you have to yourself. As a child, I always believed that you and Dad had the happiest of marriages, which provided me with a cloak of warmth and security. I am glad that as I get older you share a few of your minor difficulties with me which are helpful in understanding my own marriage.

7. I don’t understand why you occasionally buy me things for Christmas or birthdays that you know I don’t want.  You ask me if I would like something, and after I explain why it is not suitable, you give it to me later as a birthday or Christmas gift.  I feel obliged to accept the gifts graciously and then to use them, but I don’t like it. 

8. Thank you for managing your own life well with various interests and friends. I don’t feel that you are lost without me. Thank you especially for deciding yourself that you and Dad needed to live in a retirement home before any medical crisis occurred.  That took a load off my and my siblings shoulders.  We did not have to make that decision for you.

9.  I wish you would be more discreet about talking about me with your friends now that I am an adult. I  realize that nothing is private with you and that is one reason why I can’t share my problems with you.  

10. Thank you for providing me with a happy childhood.  Thank you for the effort you put into cooking family dinners, hosting birthday parties, decorating my bedroom, organizing family vacations, creating magic every Christmas, and for ensuring that I, like my brother, would go to university.  Thank you for encouraging me, believing in me and anticipating that I would succeed.

My mother at 63

My mother at 63

If I am really lucky, I will repeat the good things my mother did and avoid the bad. I know my mother tried hard to do her best.

But no parent is perfect and the likelihood of my not making any mistakes with my adult children is nil. When I do make a mistake, I hope my children let me know so I have an opportunity to address it.

They will need to learn to forgive me for not being perfect, just as I had to learn to forgive my mom for her mistakes.

But it’s not a matter of forgive and forget.  It’s a matter of forgive and love.

And that’s not always easy.

What do you wish you had told your mother or father?  I would love to hear from you so please respond in the Reply Box below.   

Lessons Learned
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Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. I love your list. I remember having one of those Eureka moments a couple weeks ago as I quizzed my mom about her grandmother and mother – about how there are a number of important conversations to have and things to say now because time isn’t infinite. Thanks for the reminder.


  2. I would like to have asked my mother to take care of me, to truly mother me. It is too late now and I feel foolish even writing this down but as the eldest of a big family I seem to have been my mother’s mother.


    • What a responsiblity for you as a child. I hope you were mothered by someone, an aunt or friend or teacher. It certainly isn’t foolish to have these feelings. We never get over our parents and I am constantly reminded how much power I have and had over my children, whether I like it or not. It’s scary! My mother certainly mothered me as a child, but I felt like a motherless child as an adult. It has been my friends who have mothered me as an adult and they still are. Occassionaly, my grown children mother me, but I try very hard not to worry them as they have enough on their plates to think about. Thanks for your response.



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