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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What My Relationship With My Mother Has Taught Me

This is the title of a blog dare challenge for today.  This, of course, is a tough one for me.  Although I have a decent relationship with my mother now, it has not always been that way.  She and are completely different people.  I am a very independent person and always have been. 
My childhood was less than an ideal one.  When I was born, Mother was not married and was living with her mother, herself a single parent.  I will always be grateful to my grandmother for supporting us and keeping us off of welfare.  She sacrificed so much for me and my mother. 
My relationship with my mother taught me to be fearful of relationships. Sometimes, I felt loved but rarely did I feel protected.  Actually, the title of this blog dare for me would have been more like "What I Learned  NOT To Do From My Parents".  Now that I am a parent, it has been difficult at times to unlearn what I learned from my parents.  But I am determined that my children will not experience the same fears and anxieties that I experienced as a child.
Mother married my step-father, who eventually became my adoptive father, while I was still an infant.  A year later, Mother gave birth to their son. Growing up with my parents' son, K, was not always pleasant.  As I got older, I always felt K was the favored one, perhaps because he was the biological offspring of both of my parents.  But K had a problem with lying, stealing, and other offenses.  Unfortunately, my parents didn't do much beyond threatening him and the occasional beating.  I, on the other hand, wanted so much to be set apart from that which is probably one reason I became a fairly independent individual early on.  I really had no choice but to be independent as I was pretty much responsible for taking care of most my own needs from an early age.  I often wonder if the presence of K in our family contributed to my lack of closeness with Mother.  Now there were times as a very young girl that I felt sort of close to Mother but as I got older, I began to myself distance from her, although I would have given my life for her.  I remember going on trips and Mother was always the first person who I would buy for.  That is, if I even had any money which was rare. 
Mother rarely faced reality when it came to her son.  Whatever was happening to K was always everyone else's fault.  It was the teacher's fault, it was the neighbor kid's fault, it was the bus driver's fault, it was my fault.  Nothing was ever K's fault.  Looking back, I now wonder if Mother coddled K and let him get away with so much because she felt guilty about our home life.  Or perhaps, she just didn't want to deal with his incorrigible behavior.  At one time, as a juvenile, K was sentenced to probation for allegedly sexually assaulting two small children in our neighborhood.  Mother just would not believe K would even do that even though there were witnesses against K.  I believed it, though.
My dad was an alcoholic and there was a point in time where he was not even coming home until late at night, if at all. I remember sitting with Mother on the couch while she fumed about where her husband was and that he better not come home drunk again.  I remember begging her to just leave Dad alone when he would finally arrive home and to ignore him.  Here I was, not even a teenager yet, and I was trying to be a mother to my own Mother!  But inevitably, Mother would pounce as soon as Dad entered through the door and the violence would begin.  I still have vivid memories of seeing Mother get hit. 
Thanks to Mother, I grew up fearful of men, fearful of relationships, fearful of alcohol, fearful of life in general.  I was full of anxiety as a kid.  And it didn't help matters that I was a wallflower at school and at church.  I was the throwaway kid.  I was the worthless one. 
As I became an adult, I was always good about getting a job and keeping it.  Unlike my parents' son. I finally saved up enough money to live on my own.  I eventually went back to college and paid my way until I received a scholarship to finish my last 2 years.  I was a very independent person.  Mother, at one point, even admitted being a little bit jealous of me that I was able to experience living on my own as a single person. In a way, I felt honored that Mother would admit this to me but in a way, it sort of made me feel guilty because my birth had changed the course of her life.  But I also learned from this that Mother was a hurting person, then and now.  I knew Mother had gone through some terrible things throughout life but I have yet to learn the extent of it all. 
But despite all of that, I still struggled in the area of relationships, including friendships.  I was so fearful of commitment.  I was afraid of marriage and of having my own children.  My relationship with Mother,  unfortunately, taught me those things.  I don't remember Mother telling me how pretty I was or how smart I was.  Not until I became an adult did I really hear those things from Mother.  My relationship with Mother also taught me resentment and anger.  Resentment toward her son, resentment that Mother felt it such a burden to take care of my basic needs, resentment that I felt such a sense of loss at not knowing who my biological father is, resentment that she didn't protect me from the abuse.  So much resentment. 
But my relationship with Mother also taught me some positive things.  It taught me to be independent.  It taught me to never be a burden on anyone else.  It taught me to appreciate the family bond as I have now.  I may never learn the identity of my biological father and I may always feel that sense of loss.  But this has made me even more grateful that my children will know who their family is.  They will always know who their father, mother, grandparents (including those no longer with us on earth), aunts, and uncles are. Family really does mean so much to me now.
Now that I have my own daughter, I have learned how important it is to tell my daughter that I love her, that she is beautiful, that she is smart, that she is talented, that she has a beautiful singing voice (she really does for a 6-year old).  I longed to hear those things as a little girl, as a teen.  My relationship with my own mother has helped make me more determined than ever to form and keep a close bond with my daughter as she gets older. 

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