An only child’s love of her mother…
My Mom Always Consoled Me, But Never Let Me Wallow
She was teaching me that I could let bad news crush me or learn to soldier on.
Happy Mother’s Day! I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for my turtle shell. I can’t pinpoint the first time you told me, “You need to develop a turtle shell,” but that sentence became a constant refrain throughout my childhood.
At first I didn’t know what this meant or where you even heard this phrase. Maybe you got this idea from Ramona Quimby? You were always telling me to be more like Ramona, a spunky gal (in your words). Regardless of its origin, this turtle shell was supposed to be my force field, a layer of protection between me and the world. It would protect me from mean kids, like the boy who told me my parents’ divorce was all my fault. Instead of chasing him down the street with a broom (which I did), you told me to put on my turtle shell and let his words bounce off me.
As you might remember, elementary school was kind of rough for me. One of the downsides of being an only child was that I didn’t have any siblings to teach me the fine art of teasing and being teased. I was so sensitive. My feelings were too easily hurt and I was devastated too often. If I was going to make it through life, I needed to toughen up. By the way, I loved everything else about being an only child, especially not having to share toys.
Looking back, I’m sure your heart must have broken when I came home crying and told you how kids didn’t want to be my friend anymore. You always consoled me but never let me wallow. The greater lesson here was that I couldn’t change other people’s behavior, only my reaction to events. You were teaching me that I could let bad news crush me or learn to soldier on.
Although I was slow to learn this lesson, it eventually sunk in. Now I’m amazed at how resilient I can be. Becoming an actor meant, in some part, choosing constant rejection and criticism. I’ve been told I’m too old, too average, not sexy enough but I keep going. I know you were nervous about my chosen profession but you’ve always been by biggest champion.
A fun part about growing up is becoming friends with your parents. Now the shoe is on the other foot and I can give you advice.
When I tell you, “Don’t take it personally. Breath through it. Try another tactic,” I’m really just repeating your words back to you.
Thanks, Mom, for guiding me through those bumpy years. You always encouraged my eccentricities and interests and never, ever asked me to conform. You knew being a little bit different was tough in the short term but a real gift in the long run. My feelings still get hurt, I’m human after all, but with my turtle shell firmly on, I feel like I can handle what comes my way.
I LOVE YOU!
Gillian Jacobs plays Mickey Dobbs on the hit Netflix series, Love.
This is part of a special series, “Thank You, Mom,” highlighting letters of gratitude from celebrities and notable writers leading up to Mother’s Day. To view the full collection, which will be added to throughout the month of May, go here.