I dread Mother's Day. There I said it and I'm pretty sure I just secured a spot in hell with that statement. If there was a box for relationship status with your mother, I'd have to check "it's complicated".
She was a great mom to us five kids as we were growing up. We never missed a meal (always home cooked mind you); our home stayed spotless ALL OF THE TIME which to this day I'll never understand how she accomplished with five kids; and, even though we lived in "da hood" we had to act like we had some sense which meant no hanging out on the corner, do good in school, go to church, and above all respect momma.
Our relationship got to complicated status was when I was a teenager and coming into my own womanhood. There were some things my mom tolerated that were in direct conflict with the messages I was receiving "from the outside". My mom was an abused woman. My dad was a violent alcoholic. We kids dreaded Friday nights as we knew 9 times out of 10 he was going to come home drunk which meant a night of fighting and a middle of the night escape plan for momma so he wouldn't kill her. Back then domestic abuse was treated as a "family issue" and the cops rarely got involved to the extent they do now. As the oldest child, I have always been the one that took on more responsibility than any child should have to bear but I did it. First priority was always make sure mom got someplace safe (usually a friend of the family came through) and then make sure my brothers were taken care of until it was safe for her to return. I always wondered why my mom tolerated it. If there were ever any kids wishing their parents would divorce it was us. Yet she stayed.
As a young Black woman coming of age in the late 70's, it was all about being your own woman, doing your thang. The Civil Rights movement had opened up so many doors as had the Women's Movement. Our society was changing rapidly and the cultural norms my mom was raised with were being shattered left and right. Problem was my mom was too busy raising us and trying to stay out of of the line of fire to be too concerned with all that. She wasn't able to help me grow into the new society as she didn't do a good job of transitioning herself.
I was feisty and unafraid during those times. I remember calling my dad out on his drinking and abuse and getting in his face about it. Unheard of for a girl-child to be in her daddy's face about anything but I wasn't afraid dammit. He was going to know I was on to him and that "we" weren't going to take it anymore. Only I didn't know I was in the fight by myself. My mom wasn't having it. She didn't back me up. She stayed. I said to hell with it. The day I turned 18, I moved out of the house.
I lost a lot of respect for my mother as a woman during those turbulent times. That created internal conflicts in me you wouldn't believe. I didn't trust any man or any person for that matter and always went at this world with a "I'm in this by myself" attitude which was not conducive to healthy relationships for me (a divorce and 3 failed "serious" relationships to prove it). I have a lot of baggage and slowly but surely I'm learning to let it go. I've done a lot of reading about Adult Children of Alcoholics and the traits we take on as children to cope. Believe it or not some of my best traits have come from what I learned growing up in that environment (hey another blog topic). I've even been in therapy (a sin in the Black community apparently) and have learned to let go of a lot of the hatred I felt towards my dad. My big hurdle now is coming to that same understanding and peace with my mother. I never developed the hatred for my mom that I held towards my dad but the respect I lost for her as a woman (not my mom) is what I'm working on. I'm not there yet. On Mother's Day it's hard for me to buy those overly sentimental cards. I usually end up getting one because it makes her so happy but I feel like a fraud. I give her some money or whatever gift she wants and I've done my daughterly duty.
Before you think I'm a cruel and selfish bitch who doesn't understand what my mom was going through, you need to know I love my mom and dad (now deceased). As a grown woman, I'm fully aware that she didn't have the family support to encourage her to get out of her situation. Her parents died when I was a little girl and she had already lost one sister to alcoholism. Her other sister, the one I wanted to be like, had escaped by going to college on a music scholarship and left the dysfunction behind and never looked back. The assistance available from the community was virtually nonexistent. Even the church didn't want to get too involved in "personal problems". I recognize now that my mom was tired by the time my dad died. She didn't have any marketable skills and the computer revolution had to pass her by once we learned the colors and images triggered a seizure disorder we didn't know she had. The adult woman in me knows about the struggles she had and I admire like crazy the strength she found to finish raising my brothers to be the responsible and caring men they are today.
The young teen in me is still fighting to be heard though and I know I have to resolve that conflict. The resolution could be as simple as me accepting that it was what it was and to not saddle my mother with seeking answers to what had to be a painful time for her. I was able to do that with my dad as the peace I hungered for with him didn't come until four years after his sudden and unexpected death. I no longer blame either of my parents for the screw ups I've made and the bad choices I've made in my own life. It does help to understand how my viewpoint was developed to better understand what I need to be aware of when making decisions but I don't blame them -- that's a big accomplishment.
So on this Mother's Day I'm going to take my mom her card and flowers, out to eat and whatever else she wants to do today. Then I'm going to come home and enjoy my own daughter and granddaughter and try to continue to make sense out of my world.
It's complicated but becoming less so every day.