Comforting Words: Flipside of Mother's Day

Monday, May 10, 2010

Flipside of Mother's Day

Years ago at a Mother’s Day event – brunch, supper, something with lots of food – I heard a woman declare that it would be the saddest day of her life if her children did not celebrate her on that special day.

The depth of her emotions as she made that declaration moved me in a perplexing way. On the one hand being a mother myself I could understand the pain of not hearing from my daughter on a special occasion.

Yet being a child who very rarely felt the proverbial “love of a mother,” that woman’s comment felt hollow and self-centred.

Mother’s Day is not necessarily a happy occasion for everyone. I am one of them.

For many of us there is no Hallmark card available to express the way we feel. Years ago, I mused about writing cards for people like me who had mothers from hell, fathers who were MIA and families who forgot they exist.

The day after Mother’s Day everyone at work was talking about what they did or was done for them on Mother’s Day. I kept quiet because I had no such story to share; at least not about my relationship with my mother.

Standing in my kitchen in a house we rented in the cool hills of Mandeville in 1994, my mother asked me for the umpteenth time “Cutie, why don’t you love me?” I had heard the question a few times before and avoided giving her an answer. This day was different – I was ready to speak my truth.

I do love my mother in my own way. I learnt many things from her and her journey. Her life taught me how to live mine. My mother’s brand of love showed me how to create my type for my relationship with my own daughter.

You see, in many respects my life shares many similarities with Precious. A friend from work loaned me the DVD and my daughter and I watched it together when I visited with her over Easter. I told Abi that I did not want to watch it alone and quickly distracted myself playing SIMS 2 as the crudity, evil, self-loathing of Precious’ mother tried to grab me through the television screen.

It has taken many years, tears and even some therapy (spiritual and psychological) to help me to the place I now am.

My mother, on the other hand, to this day denies she did any harm.

When confronted by the school counselor/social worker about her role in Previous’ life of physical abuse, molestation, rape, low-self esteem – just to name a few – her mother wept and denied any wrong doing. She finally asked, “Who was going to love me?” as if that made everything she did or ignored right.

In life one word, a sentence, a paragraph or an entire book can make the deepest mark on your development. At the heights of custody battle with my daughter’s father, a dear friend advised me to not fight fire with fire. Her simple words to me were “Show your daughter all the love you can muster and one day she will know the truth.”

I have disciplined Abi – even spanked her a few times. Some people think that I spoiled her but they probable never heard the lectures I delivered and the tears I cried as I shared with her life lessons.
Today, in spite of her anger at me for many things not least of which was insisting that she learned proper table manners, social etiquette, not allowing her to watch the Simpsons and dancing at a school concert to “I’m a Barbie girl,” I can say my daughter is my child and my best friend.

The Hallmark moments for me was not on Mother’s Day but every morning at 6:45 when Abi calls me to say hi and share the suss’ of the previous day. I experience Mother’s Day every night that my baby girl calls me to say she made it home and asks for advice about school, work or her love life. Hallmark holds nothing over me when I hear my daughter’s giggle.

It is too late for my mother and me.

It is too late for many mothers and their children – relationships that were neglected for too many years to be healed with a card or a telephone call. What was needed was attention, sharing of life lessons and most important love.

Mothers who never gave love, real love, demonstrable love (in hugs, kisses, discipline, encouragement) you have no right to expect sainthood now. You get what you gave.

Mothers with young children today – heed my warning.

The rest of the world needs to understand this flipside and stop harassing those who have no experience of warm and fuzzy on Mother or Father’s Day. Theirs and my experience is sadness for the mother’s (and father’s) love they never felt.

Give us a break…understanding…not judgment.




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