I've never had an ideal relationship with my parents. In particular, with my mother. We've always differed in our values and morals. As a result, we fought a lot as I was growing up. However, as our relationship stands right now, it's the best it's ever been. Why? Because I've learned to love her for who she is, instead of desperately trying to change her.
Growing up, my mum rarely said that she loved me. I don't recall ever being hugged or kissed by her. She never read or sang to me. She never asked how my day was. She never helped me with homework. She told me to be quiet if I was upset, so I wouldn't embarrass her. She called me stupid if I didn't know the correct response to a question. When I asked her why I was treated in such a neglectful way, my feelings were abruptly met with anger. I never dared ask again.
I developed high levels of anxiety as a child. I was afraid of failure. I was afraid to take chances and take on new experiences. I was absolutely terrified to say what was on my mind in fear of being insulted or ridiculed. So I tried my best to stay silent.
Despite being treated the way I was, I tried to make sense of why rather than acting out towards my mother. I knew her childhood had been difficult in many ways, being the youngest of 5. I knew she worked incredibly hard to help support her family when she was living in Vietnam.
I never stopped loving her when she told me nobody would love me because of my nail biting habit.
I never stopped loving her when she treated me differently to my siblings.
I never stopped loving her when I, myself, didn't feel loved.
I didn't like who she was as a person, though. I didn't like the fact that she made me feel worthless and alone.
However, the turning point was when I became a mother for the first time.
Despite how horrible our relationship had been at the time, she looked at my first born with such love and adoration. She fussed over my daughter. She put a picture of the baby in her purse to show her friends. She wanted nothing more than to go shopping with my husband and I so we could get the baby some new clothes.
That was when I began to see my mother in a different way.
Photo: Callum Baker/Flickr
I started to think back to the love she showed me when she drove me to school every day for 13 years because she worried about me taking the bus. I remembered the love she showed me when she and my father tried desperately to give us the best financial start in life. I remembered how much she sacrificed just so us 4 children could have the life that we deserved. My mum had always tried her best to show me love, just in her own way.
My mum isn't the sort of person who initiates hugs. She isn't someone who talks about her feelings. She isn't someone who says, "I'm proud of you" or "You're doing a great job". But she'll cook one of my favourite dishes and insist that I bring some home. She'll get excited about the prospect of her grandchildren coming over and frantically get her house ready so they can play in a clean and comfortable space. She'll smile at me and without saying a word, I'll know she's proud of me and who I've become.
She is who she is and I love her for it.
We still disagree a lot. She still has her set of values and I still have mine.
But I no longer let our differences stop us from having a relationship.
By accepting her for who she is, we have developed a much stronger bond.
I believe that all of us encounter people in our lives who we don't like. People who we don't see eye to eye with. And unfortunately, this can still happen even with blood relatives - our mother, our father, our siblings.
People often feel forced to lie to themselves about how they feel about their family, but I believe they shouldn't. It's okay not to be best friends with your siblings. It's okay if you don't have a close knit relationship with your parents. It's okay if you don't have the relationship that other people have with their family.
What does matter, however, is accepting your family for who they are and making the most of the relationship that you do have.
I may not always agree with the way my mum thinks. I may not always agree with how she behaves.
But she's still my mum. And she will always be my mum.
I don't like who she is at times, but I know that I love her.
Thuy Yau is a freelance writer who loves nothing more than to help and inspire others. Her passion lies in psychology, particularly in the areas of emotional and mental health. She lives in Perth, Australia with her husband and three young children. Check out her personal development blog at Inside a Mother's Mind.