It was difficult for me to write this before Mother’s Day and to get it out for everyone to read. Then I thought about how depressing it could be to read something like what I’m about to share on Mother’s Day itself. I came to the conclusion that waiting until late afternoon on Mother’s Day to begin “penning” my thoughts was the best option, with the hope of posting the day after.
Okay ~ maybe two days after.
So I’ll start with this. Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me. It is for a lot of people and for a multitude of reasons. I don’t for one second equate my issues with those who have lost a child, are unable to bear children on their own or struggle on this day with the loss of their own mother. They have tremendous heart ache that I could never match and my thoughts, prayers and virtual hugs are with them. Unfortunately, there are many reasons to shed tears the second Sunday in May. For me, I try my best not to cry about it…but I would be lying if I didn’t say I agonize over some of the memories that go through my head on this holiday.
On the one hand, I have the humble pleasure of being the mom of three amazingly handsome, extremely brilliant and tremendously talented young men (yes, I’m quite biased). They make me laugh, cry, scream, swell with pride and, well, experience every other emotion imaginable, but I do so because of the love they have for me and the love I have for them. It is immeasurable, immense, unconditional and deeper than the mind can fathom. It is not always easy, but it is constant.
On the other hand, I lack the example and memories of a mother who embodies everything I try to be with my children. Let me clarify that to avoid it being misconstrued. My mother is very much alive. She is as alive as you and I. The lack to which I am referring comes from not having her be the kind of mother who offers hugs, support, encouragement or unconditional love…at least not for me. I say that because she has boldly uttered these nearly unforgivable words to my husband…in front of my face, “I can’t tell my daughter I love her.”
Yeah – that hurt.
As many of you out there know, sometimes relationships between mothers and daughters do not go very well. The tie that binds is frayed and fraught with turmoil that, no matter how often and how hard you try to mend the brokenness of it all, it is just too unhealthy to repair. I don’t want to believe that, but this is where I am right now and I don’t see it changing in the foreseeable future.
Growing up, I admit I wasn’t the easiest child to manage. I was one of those kids who was very hypersensitive to certain food additives and my behavior showed it when I “cheated.” Beware if I drank a glass of Kool-Aid! So, I can imagine it was difficult to love a kid like me. Dad wasn’t around, I had two younger half-sisters and we lived in nearly impoverished conditions. I didn’t grow up with much, but I did have a roof over my head, food in the fridge and clothes on my back. When I say that, I guess I can’t complain. As mentioned above, however, what I did lack were the crucial hugs, the “I love you” reminders, any kind of encouragement and the unwavering support I needed to propel forward. I was actually a smart girl. I was one of the top students, very competitive academically and musically, and I had a chance to be someone, but I did not have the parental guidance or support a child craves or needs to turn those talents into something. Instead, all I remember is the “Tina, if you can’t hit the right note, you shouldn’t be singing,” or “If you can’t play it right, don’t play it at all!” If I brought home a “B,” I apparently wasn’t applying myself enough. I am a theater geek, but I can remember my mother sitting in the audience of many a theater performance straight-faced, hands crossed over her waist, as if she could not wait to get out of there. She was there out of obligation and not pride. (Meanwhile, the memory of my father standing in the back of the auditorium dancing to my middle school special chorus singing, “Let It Snow,” brings a smile back to my face ~ he attended only a few performances, but I hold this memory in my heart). Oh, there is so much more I could share…but I’ll try to keep the drama to a minimum.
I do have some family members who tell me that she said things here and there when I was young about how smart I was or what award I had won, but I don’t remember those words being heard by my own ears. I never knew if she was proud of me while I was under her roof.
Come to think of it…I never remember my mother telling me I was beautiful.
When I got married and had children of my own, she was somewhat of a support for a while. When things in life were changing for her (actually both of us, to be honest), we invited her to stay with us, taking a huge risk and praying that this was going to be the right thing to do for everyone involved. I was actually in need of some help anyway because I was homeschooling the oldest, had an active toddler and was experiencing a very difficult pregnancy with the third. Hubby was also working a rather demanding job at the time, so her coming was a blessing. She was great with our boys and, when we found out that the youngest had some health issues, she was quick to learn how to handle them, as well, so that we had support within the family.
I honestly don’t know what happened from there, but things took a turn within a few years and the stress level grew. My health began to be affected by what was going on and tensions in the house rose. When she began to treat my oldest son the way she had treated me as a teenager, something had to be done. My husband confronted her, after some time, and asked her a few direct questions. One of those questions was, “Why don’t you tell your daughter you love her?” He asked this because she would often speak of her other two daughters with such adoration and affection (I love my sisters ~ I hold none of this against them). I was standing right there…my heart pounding, waiting to hear how she would respond. She stared him straight in the face with the coldest pair of eyes and said with such directness, “Because I can’t. I can’t tell my daughter I love her.”
That shut my heart down so fast and so hard…I have not had the strength from that point to open it back up.
She now lives near my youngest sister, who is married and has a stepson of her own. I wish them all the happiness together and I wish no ill will on my mother; however, I cannot allow her to enter our lives at this point. My blood pressure rises too high when she is close. My ability to focus dwindles and my children are put off by some of her character traits, some of which I have worked very hard to work out of myself and keep my children from developing. It is simply not healthy. She brings out the worst in me.
So – it’s Mother’s Day and I read all these wonderful, beautiful stories about my friends and their magnetic connections with their mothers. It’s tough to read, but I’m genuinely and truly happy for them. I wouldn’t wish a stressful situation like this upon anyone and I know my situation is not uncommon, nor the worst scenario to live through. It’s certainly not that I have a nightmare I’m living….I just wish it was different. I wish she could accept responsibility for things she has done. I wish she could find a place in her heart to love her firstborn. I wish she could accept me for who I am ~ every complicated piece of me (I never once claimed to be easy to love). But ~ she can’t. So, I can’t. It;s just the way it is.
I have to change my focus. I don’t want this post to end in such a way that you think I’m seeking sympathy or attention. Absolutely not. That’s part of why I didn’t want to post it on Mother’s Day or just before. I hope every one of you reading this enjoyed a spectacular day with your families, whether you were celebrating your own motherhood or someone who was a mother to you, be it biologic, by marriage, by law or in spirit. If , by chance, you are reading this and can relate to the reality written above (many of you in more traumatic situations, more heartbreaking), my heart goes out to you and I pray your story has opportunity to turn the page and see a happy ending.
Today, I don’t have my mother in my life. It’s a mutual decision. What I do have are three amazing boys and a husband who are trying to make sure I know what love really looks like. I also have the chance to right the wrongs and paint a different picture with my family. The boys aren’t perfect. Hubby isn’t perfect and I am certainly nowhere near perfect, nor where I want to be as a mother. I am, however, going to try my best to ensure my sons never feel the way I do. They deserve to have happy memories. They deserve hugs, encouragement, accolades, support and more, especially when they need them most. They need to know their mom is proud of them, there for them and loves them no matter what…and that I will do…
Forever and ever and then some….
Good thing I’m up for the challenge.