I have always hated Mother’s Day. It’s like that when you have a mother with an untreated mental illness who was physically and emotionally abusive.
I No Longer Speak to My Parents, and I Am Better Off
Family is important to me, but today I can choose to have a family that doesn’t include my parents.
Her narcissism and self-centeredness made every holiday miserable. If it was one of her “special” days, she expected to be lavishly praised and fawned over. If it wasn’t a day centered around her (Father’s Day, for example), it might as well have been. I dreaded holidays. It will take time for me to stop dreading them.
In one of my earliest memories (I was three or four), my mother slapped me across the face. From there, the abuse never stopped. She never turned it around. My childhood was spent living in constant fear that she might pull my hair, slap me, kick me, or otherwise hurt me because I’d done something as innocuous as load the forks into the dishwasher pointy-side down or say “yes” when I should have said “no” or say something — anything — in a tone she just “didn’t like.”
When I was fourteen, she trapped me in a corner of the apartment we were living in then and beat me with a metal mop. It looked like she was being filled with something that would run over. Her lips stretched tight, and whenever the mop struck, she laughed. I could do nothing until she was done, and it felt like it would never end. It sometimes feels like it may still be going on. Like I still may be trapped in a corner being beaten in those soft spots that never heal.
For over a month after, it hurt to hold a pencil, to touch my fingertips to my palms. I learned how the muscles in my arms ran to my hands. I wore long sleeves for a month in late spring.
The last time she hurt me, I was 23. We were in her car, and I simply refused to engage in an argument with her. This enraged her, and she kept getting louder and louder. She finally snapped and grabbed the TomTom GPS system she had on her dash and chucked it at me. It left a bruise the size of two of my fists on my leg. I attempted to press charges, but my dad offered me money to not do it. I took it.
Three or four to twenty-three years old. Nearly twenty years of abuse.
You can’t buy a sweet heartfelt, sentimental card for a mother like that.
No cards that read,
Happy Mother’s Day to My Best Friend.
Home Is Where Mom Is.
Thank You for Making Me the Person I Am Today.
If I Become Half the Woman You Are…
Because you don’t celebrate a mother like that, you survive a mother like that. You grow into the person you are despite a mother like that, not because of a mother like that.
When my twins were less than a year old, my mother and I were walking into IKEA. She was holding my daughter in a particular way she liked to, sort of a chokehold, the baby facing forward, her arm locked over her torso with no other support.
“I don’t like the way you’re holding her. I don’t want you to hold them that way anymore,” I told her.
“I held you and your sister like this all the time and you’re fine.”
“We aren’t fine. We survived. There are things you did that I don’t want done to my children.”
“You want to go there?” I said, smiling at my own jab.
“Yes,” she snapped.
“Like beating us. I won’t do that to them. Never.”
“You just wait,” she said.
That is a fear of mine. One that I know is not rational. I will never become a mother like her. I will do everything in my fucking power to never be a mother like her because I don’t want my children to ever have to learn to survive me too.
On this Mother’s Day, my second with my own children, I feel so relieved to not have to spend even a second with my own mother, to not have to wonder how to “celebrate” a woman I survived being raised by.
If that sounds bitter, it’s because it is. Some days, like today, it’s because I’m still angry. Just having distance doesn’t heal those wounds. It’ll take time. It’ll take work.
But today, my children came down to the stairs with a balloon and flowers that my partner had given them. They handed me a card that said, Happy Mother’s Day to the kind of mom who lives and loves with all her heart.
And today I‘m grateful to be the kind of mother to them that I wish mine had been to me.