Facebook holds a plethora of shareable images that always challenge you to share it for the love of this or for an Amen for that. Some of these images I like to share, mostly being memes and quotes that ring true to not just myself but those around me, but what I also find myself encountering are the more parental based images. The maternal ones. The “share if you love your mom” or “share if you’d be lost without your mother” sort of photos that I constantly dread to see every mother’s day. It’s not that I don’t agree that a mother doesn’t hold this importance in someone’s life, it’s just that they don’t and will never apply to me.
You see, I was raised by my father and his mother. It isn’t the story of a single father who was dumped with a child after the passing of his beloved wife or a man who wanted to claim zero responsibility but fell in love with the joys after seeing so much of himself in me. For a lack of better words, my father raised me because someone had to.
It almost goes without saying that these images have never quite been reflective of my relationship with my mother at all. She was not my best friend, nor have I ever wanted her to be. I do love her, but I won’t share an image telling me to do so. It’s because our love is different; it’s strained and complicated and there’s no image that projects that kind of truth for us. It’s not a love the weighs heavy in my heart and mind where when I think warrior, survivor, and love, I think “my mother”. Instead, unfortunately, when I hear or think of my mother I tend to think headache, heartache, worry, fear, annoyance, and lies that cannot be untold.
My sister has a different mother than me, so when I was growing up, watching them interact and hearing the stories of their relationship, I had always wished we were of the same womb. As I got older I began to accept this fate, or weariness, I’d forever have of my own mother. Sadly, accepting this never abolished my feelings desire for the relationship my sister and her mother had. I’d never be free of wondering what I could have had with the influence of both parents, even if separate, in my life.
My mother didn’t leave, but she didn’t exactly want to stay either. He’d and my father never married, so in some ways I always wondered what reason did she really have to stick around? Then I found answer in my own question by acknowledging the obvious: it was easy because she didn’t put me first. She had me in her early 20s, which for some is a relatively great time for having children, but for her it was restricting. Her youth was sheltered, or so she tells me. Her teenage years weren’t as liberating as she would have liked either. Which means that when I was brought into the world, she still had her mind on the ideas of liberation, not motherhood.
I won’t speak for her. I don’t know her frame of thinking during that time. I can’t say that she never loved me or cared about me, but as I said, this love between her and I has always been sticky and unsettling. It’s tangled and difficult with strings or yarn connecting us but ever so obviously coming undone. It was an obligation kind of love, and I’ve always known that. These thoughts were never fed to me. Of course my father had a hand in explaining the situation, but these were my own feelings. These have always been my feelings since my earliest recollection of a memory.
I recall all those moments when I realized that I was just continuously going to be let down by the same person. Being a child with my hands in my pocket and notebooks filled with letters and cards from her wondering if today was the day she would finally mean what she said, for once in her life, for me. The taste of disappointment isn’t a flavor you can easily rid of. The act of no longer giving the benefit of the doubt when your world and mind and heart and sticky, tangled, mangled love is shrouded in nothing but doubt is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to decide to do.
Because somewhere between broken promises and flowered excuses, I learned how to put myself first.
This is why I can’t bear the thought of sharing an image on social media where a woman goes from holding a baby to being a grown women holding hands with the now grown baby to being an older woman now having to be held by her daughter. I will not be that child, that daughter. I have forgiven her, in some sense of the term, but I have not forgotten.
I’ve realized in some ways that it’s not just these images by my mother-having friends that annoy me, it’s those kind of people. This annoyance only becomes tangible when people tell me how no matter what my ill feelings are, my pain and disappointment and frustrations, I should love her regardless and be proud of her for her efforts. Its an erasure of a battle between being taking care of myself or bending backwards for the required affection and love (I will never get) from my mother. It’s made worst when father’s day becomes a day of praise for single mothers and my appreciation for my father feels diminished, on his day. Then to know if I were to intrude mother’s day with the same method, I would be slandered and hung to dry by those same kinda of people.
My mother isn’t your mother. My mother isn’t anything like yours, either. I do not praise her for who she has help me become. I do not want to share on my profile how without her I am nothing, because without her I have become my best. I don’t want to be told how to feel about my mother when these feelings aren’t just hard to feel, but even more difficult express to the mass of women around me who have only ever known their own mother and mothers like theirs. My mother isn’t like your mother, and I am eternally grateful you never have to feel these pains because the mothers I’ve only ever known has been mother figures to me – my grandmother’s, my aunt, my friends’ mothers, and even my own friends.
Celebrate your own, but stop telling me how to celebrate mines.