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What this mother wants
"Absolutely I want my baby, Maggie, to be enamored at my greatness. This would be fabulous, but unlikely." -April Guillaume

by April Guillaume

When I was 18 my mother died in a car crash. No prolonged illness, no good-bye, no apology for the last dumb pointless conversation we had. She was alive one day, gone the next.

I was lucky. I had a mom until college, while my 10-year-old sister never knew a mother at puberty's onset. My baby sister had no one to hug her at her first heartbreak, or take her to eat lunch, like my mom and me, just the two of us, each time my braces were painfully tightened.

For years after my mother died, in my dreams I would rescue her from her life; I would keep her from her poorer choices, including driving like an idiot. In those dreams, I rescued her and she was blissfully alive. Waking up from those nights I had to relive reality: All I had were my memories, no option to do over all the mean things I yelled as a teenager.

I've outlived my mother's 34 years now. I have a baby daughter whom when I look at, I pray I won't drive like my mother-even though I do. I imagine all my imperfections laid out magnified for my daughter's judgment. Will she be like I was, forever angry?

I was angry at my mother for being weak, not standing up for herself. In my youth and since, I am forever opening my big mouth against anyone I feel is bullying. I use these deeply held beliefs in my volunteer endeavors for the oppressed, the poor, women, children.

Absolutely I want my baby, Maggie, to be enamored at my greatness. This would be fabulous, but unlikely. At 19 months, she could say "Daddy," "Elmo" and "Addie," the last being our six-pound dog.

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What she cannot articulate are all my faults, including my need to be her hero. I want to be everything I wanted in a mother. I want to protect her from my own death. Without saying it because, let's face it, she only learned the word "hot" yesterday observing oatmeal. She is a mirror, not an appendage of me.

In her eyes, I inevitably will fail to be all I want to be for her. She will tell a therapist later in life she had an oppressive, big-mouthed mom who was always picking a fight. I'm human. I work full time and I feel guilty. If I were at home with her full time, I'd feel guilty we could not afford our house. My prayer when I look at her, my two-foot little mirror, is that she will be a bit gentler on me than I was to my mother.

April Guillaume is a licensed hearing-aid specialist. She lives with her family in the Twin Cities.

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