My mother is a very complex person. To the untrained eye, she’s outgoing, loud, joyful, social, kind, wise, and very Christian. Now, I’m not saying that she isn’t like this, but during my childhood in our home, or alone with the family, we would often see the beast come out. At home, mother was king. She knew the comings and goings of everyone, and NOTHING happened without her permission. She was by definition, a helicopter parent. Though we were very capable of functioning on our own, she still chose to hover, critique, and micromanage. She was strict, snappy, temperamental, and closed minded. She had little to no patience for less than perfect performance, whether it was school work, chores, punctuality, or obedience.
When my mother came into contact with other people, whether it was on the phone, talking to a neighbor, at church, or even in the supermarket, her mood switched so quickly, it gave me the impression that she was being fake. She could be threatening me one moment, and then smile and laugh, her voice jumping up several octaves, when interacting with someone else. Sometimes she did this in the house with my sisters and I. She would be in discipline mode with one of us and then when she turned to talk to someone not in trouble, her tone switched to sweetness. It was unsettling to me. It made me think she was doing one of two things 1) being overly sweet to someone not in trouble in order to further make the person in trouble feel bad, like psychological warfare, or 2) when it came to non-family members, she didn’t want people to see, hear, or sense how she got when she was upset and in discipline mode. To anyone that didn’t live with her, or know how she was, I could understand how she seemed like she was always bright, outgoing, and sweet. She was an avid volunteer and prayer warrior, basically a pillar in our little church and school community. I wished I could be like her socially, but not so over the top. Her moods were so extreme that it became another form of mistrust. Was she fabricating the way that everyone saw her? Who was she really? In my adolescence I became frustrated that my mom didn’t seem real. I could never have a real conversation with her. It was either coated with judgment or shrouded in biblicality. I just wanted to talk to my mom like a regular kid. I was jealous of other girls who said they were best friends with their mom or were super close. I couldn’t even mention a school crush without my mom immediately saying “well you know you’re not allowed to date”.
When I turned twelve, that was around the time I felt I was a target. Not only was she constantly hovering around me, critiquing everything I did, she employed my sisters to watch me as an extension of her. Soon, they began acting similarly to her, flaunting some sort of authority over me. Of course they did, they weren’t the one being targeted. I suppose I can understand it as following orders as usual, as well as a survival tactic to not be the point of scrutiny. I don’t know why my mother acted this way towards me. Perhaps it was because she could tell I was following orders because I had to, but I did not agree with how she ran things. I did not smile often as I was not a happy person, I just tried to do what I was told and be a good girl. I think when the transition happened, the transition from a little girl to a pre-teen, she may have struggled with that, but instead of guiding me, she sabotaged, suffocated, and shut me down. I was denied normal coming of age privileges. How does one develop past the age of 11 when they are continuously treated like an 11-year-old? It took some fighting. Not fighting my mother, but fighting to mature and develop on my own without proper guidance or life experience.
There were several occasions where she would try and intimidate me by threatening acts of violence like hitting me in the mouth, choking me, or throwing me up against a wall. She continuously and unnecessarily re-established her dominance. One day I joked that I was stronger than her. As a pre-teen I was convinced that I was abnormally strong and tough. Maybe it was because I was in karate, or because I considered myself a daddy’s girl. It started out as us locking hands and pushing. I thought that I would be able to move her backwards a few steps, like a weird version of an arm wrestle. My mother not only pushed so that I was forced backwards, but then wrestled me to the ground and got on top of me so that I couldn’t move. She seemed proud of that moment. I, on the other hand, felt her show of strength was unnecessary and my feelings were a little hurt. I’m sure most parents know they’re stronger than their children; even if she knew she was stronger, why was it so important to her to prove it? Her actions were that of an older sister, not a mom. I knew it wasn’t all in good fun. It was almost like she perceived my bragging about my “strength” as a threat. In actuality, I was just overhyping myself as children often do.
Practically my whole life I felt my mom was someone I had to please and follow to the T in order to have a life void of turbulence. She was someone it wasn’t safe to get close to. The few times I initiated a heartfelt conversation, needing motherly support, I often left the conversation feeling vulnerable, judged, and hurt when I opened up to her about my personal life. Often if things were going wrong, I didn’t receive the support I needed but was told that it was due to a fault of mine. I needed to pray more, read my bible more, or avoid people whom I didn’t have perfect interactions with. I wasn’t taught how to handle real life situations. Problems can’t be prayed away, but that’s what I was always told to do. I was told to pray away my depression. That didn’t work. Matter of fact, if my mother had truly listened to me during my teenage years and young adult years, I should have been in therapy back then. Crying and feeling despair became a normal part of my life, there was almost a comfort in it. The sadness was a part of me, a heaviness I carried around in my torso like a thick blanket enclosed behind my ribs.
I never felt like a really knew her, like there was some darkness she was either trying to hide, or run from. I know that her childhood was a hard one. Her mother was an alcoholic and abusive. Her mother whooped her and her four sisters far beyond what anyone would consider appropriate, and it was more extreme than what I had experienced. I think she carried her past with her and it affected both her marriage, and her parenting. When I complained about her methods of discipline, she or my father told me that mom had it much worse. She was using the pain of her childhood to excuse her behavior. I knew it was wrong, but I could do nothing about it. When I attempted to have rational conversations with my parents, mother often said, “Thank you for sharing, but your opinion doesn’t matter.” I learned early on that I was not important. My thoughts and feelings held no weight and would make no difference.
Since childhood I have been repressing anger which has now manifested as anxiety. I am aware that repressing emotions is unhealthy, but the reason I did it for so long was out of fear. I hold in anger as a result of of how I’ve been treated and the fear is that if I let that anger out, I’ll hurt people by being mean. I have recently realized that, as they say, my anxiety is lying to me. My past experiences with conflict and the way I behave now have continued to prove that I don’t lash out at people. Furthermore, the fear of hurting others is a prevention method. I was trying to prevent myself from becoming like the people who abused, used, hurt, and traumatized me. There are ways to express frustration and anger in a healthy way that doesn’t hurt others. I do this well when I get to the point where I can be open and honest about my feelings.
Most of my life, I wished I did not have a mother, or that I had a different one. I wanted someone whom I knew, could have a friendship with, and that would take care of my emotional needs. I wanted to trust her and to truly love her. I eventually accepted that I could not have the relationship with my mother that I wanted. I would keep her at a distance because that was safest for me. I have limits to how much I will give someone chances when they keep hurting me. Obviously that limit will be farther away for family members, but when that line is crossed, a switch is flipped. I no longer care for the person the same way. I distance myself and no longer entertain a relationship with them. I have made mistakes by holding onto people too long, but over the years, I have learned to better discern between which relationships are worth it and which ones are not.
I came across road blocks where emoting in a healthy way seemed to backfire. At first I thought it was me and I needed to continue to repress, but it was the company I chose. The lower the maturity level, the less people can interact with me in healthy way. In the past if I expressed any negative emotions, I would be attacked, not taken seriously, or challenged. When I am talking to people with a higher maturity level, I am able to safely converse and express anger, sadness, and frustration. Being able to do this allows me to process these emotions and find resolution or let them go. I am also very open to constructive criticism from people close to me. Some of the best conversations I’ve had are with a best friend or sister telling me that I’m “doing too much” or “need to chill out”. Their words have an almost instant effect and I am able to calm down, let go, and/or view the situation from a different perspective. This can happen because there’s mutual trust, respect, honesty, and understanding.
Last year, when I talked to my parents about all the ways they hurt me since childhood (I may post that conversation in the future), I talked to my mother about how she affected me. Many things I wrote here I shared with her. She was receptive and apologetic. She looked at me and said that she ruined most of my life. There is a sadness in that because it is true, however, that statement allowed us both to take a step towards a better future. I was able to let go of the resentment I was carrying around. I still don’t have the relationship with my mother that I wanted as a child. It’s not possible (mostly due to religious/moral differences now), but we get along.