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My Mother vs. The Mother I Have Become

It’s safe to say that my childhood wasn’t exactly all sunshine and roses.
 
My parents probably should never have gotten married ... and they most definitely should have never had children. In fact, my mom has said the latter on many occasions. Her own childhood wasn’t the happiest so she ultimately lacked a healthy idea of what a good mother looked like.
 
What is a mother?
 
Someone who cares when others care less
Someone who encourages when others ridicule.
Someone who defends when others condemn.
Someone with patience when others are impatient.
Someone who appreciates when others fail to notice.
Someone who gives security in a world of insecurity.
Someone who is accepting when others reject.
A Mother is a friend for all time, to cherish and protect,
as her achievements will linger for generations.

Author Unknown

 
The above poem is who I picture in my mind as the “ultimate” mother. It probably describes a good portion of the mothers in the world today.
 
It does not, however, describe my mother.
 
Even now, as an adult and as a mother myself, I still make excuses for my mother. She didn’t know how to love because she never felt loved. She didn’t know how to show affection or appreciation because it was never shown to her. She could never protect me from the evil in this world because no one had ever protected her.
 
The excuses feel more comfortable to me than the truth. And the truth is that, at any time, she could’ve been the one to break the cycle of dysfunction.
 
I’ve spent most of my childhood and early adulthood trying to make sense of it all. But no amount of analyzing the facts will ever change the past. The damage can never be undone.
 
Unfortunately, no amount of therapy could’ve repaired the damage either.
 
I’ve sat through counseling sessions listening to her admit that when I was a baby she left me in my crib for hours at a time while I cried because she couldn’t “handle motherhood”... it wasn’t anything like she imagined it would be. She had pictured herself being home all day long with an adorable, cuddly baby who would spend hours gazing into her eyes.
 
The reality was that each day when my father would leave for work in the one car they owned, she would feel angry, resentful, trapped and bitter.
 
I wasn’t a particularly cute baby ... I was small and scrawny, with a shrill cry that cut her nerves like a sharp knife. Due to immature nerve endings, I didn’t like to be held and I would push her away each time she tried to hold me.
 
Ultimately, she felt rejected by me. In her mind, she wasn’t good enough for her mother ... and now she wasn’t good enough for her own child.
 
I grew up hearing things from her such as, “You’re not good enough”, “Your father loves your sister more than you”, and “You’ll never make anyone happy”.
 
A few years ago, during one particular counseling session, I finally had the nerve to tell her about one of her male employees who sexually abused my sister and I. I expected her to be shocked, sympathetic, sad, disappointed...isn’t that how a mother SHOULD react to hearing such an upsetting confession from her child?
 
She just sat there, stone-faced, and responded, “I had a feeling something had happened. But I always thought it had happened to your sister ... not to YOU”.
 
In disbelief, I asked, “Wait ... you KNEW?! Yet, you continued to allow him to be around us? And you thought it only happened to Erica but not to ME? Was I that horrible that not even a child molester would want anything to do with me?!”
 
What made it worse was now knowing that she had an idea something sinister had occurred, yet years later when we went to the grocery store and this same person was working there as a bag boy, she engaged in a friendly conversation with him and expected me to give him a hug....while the whole time, my stomach turned violently and my heart felt like it would give out at any time.
 
It was at that very moment that I realized I had to live my life for myself ... I was spinning wheels that were going nowhere, spending every waking moment trying to prove to my mother that I was worthy of being loved. I had to let it go...
 
Flash forward to where I am now...sometimes I feel like I’ve come such a long way. And then at other times, I realize I’m still that little girl who’s desperate for her mother’s approval.
 
My sister has long since written our mother off. And she did so without any hesitation ... she’s never looked back. She doesn’t regret her decision whatsoever.
 
Yet, I cannot do it. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I wish to God I could. I want so much to NOT care. I tell myself, “What have you got to lose?”
 
I practice the conversation in my head over and over until the words are branded into my brain. But when she finally does call, out of the blue ... asking for something ... I turn to putty. I stumble and I can’t find the words anymore.
 
My mother is having a BBQ on Mother’s Day this year again at her house. This has become an annual event as of the last 10 years.
 
Inside, I’m screaming, “NO, I’m not coming this year. It makes me sick to pretend in front of family and friends that you’re Mother of the Year. I’m tired of my kids being confused about why you’re so nice to them this one day of the year, only when others are around to witness it ... yet, the rest of the year, you’re too busy to see them.”
 
As I beat around the bush, trying to come up with excuse after excuse, she’s arguing with me ...”Well, just tell Tim you want to come over”, “Don’t worry about Tim’s mom ... just celebrate with her on another day” and “But you always come over here on Mother’s Day”.
 
It’s conversations like that which reduce me to the equivalent of a terrified 9-year old child, who doesn’t understand what she did so badly in life which justifies such poor treatment. How many times can someone be knocked down before she decides she’s had enough?
 
Well, I’m a mother now and, unlike her, I have vowed to break that cycle of dysfunction. I will strive to be at the opposite end of the spectrum.
 
Sure, I get angry, short-tempered and yell at my kids more often than I should ... I’m certainly not perfect. I am a work in progress, just like every other parent out there in the world.
 
So when people give me the label of “Supermom” because I insist on spending three days baking homemade birthday cakes for each of my kids or taking an entire day to help my kids make Valentine’s day crafts for their classmates, I wear that label proudly. I have no problem admitting that I have set the bar high for myself.
 
I want my children to feel that they are worth my effort and my time ... it’s essential that they feel important, valued and, most important of all, loved.
 
With that said, I still hope for that day when my mother will come to me, after seeing the mother I have become, and tell me she’s sorry and that she’s proud of me.
 
In reality, I know that day may never come. And that’s okay. What matters to me the most now is being the mother to my children that I had always wished for ... the mother in the poem above, especially the following part ...
 
A Mother is a friend for all time, to cherish and protect,

as her achievements will linger for generations.
 
Hopefully, my biggest achievement will have been advancing against the odds ... coming through and out of the darkness to shine as brightly as I know I can, for the sake of my children and future generations, as well.

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