© Allison R. Bethune

A Misconception of Parenting Part 2

Helloooooooo! I've been working my behind off, so blogging has been on the back burner. But it feels so good to be back on the keys. A lot has happened in this big ol' world of ours since my last entry. And I will have my say about a few of them, however something has been pulling at my heart for the last week and that's what this posting is about. So please excuse any grammatical errors you may encounter, this post was as emotional as it was cathartic for me.

Last week my husband and I went to see Amy Schumer's new movie (Which was freaking hilarious!) and a line from one of the trailers has been resounding in my head all week. The line is "It's not your children's job to love you. It's your job to love your children." That hit me like a ton of bricks. I guess it hit me so hard because of the estranged relationship I have with my own mother.

A few weeks ago my husband and I went back home to visit family, I was excited and even hopeful I would be able to have a cordial visit with my mother. Well, that did not happen. I wasn't mad, upset, or disappointed- I had peace and closure. I have always marveled and even envied my friends who have a loving bond with their mothers. As they grew closer to their mothers, my mother and I grew further apart. A rift so deep that only a supernatural intervention from the good Lord himself can repair. My question has always been why? Over the last 10 years I have been able to piece together a somewhat viable answer.

I was always taught there are 3 sides to the truth. Meaning the perspective of the 2 persons involved and then the actual truth; seeing as though only the 2 people can verbalize their recollection of the incident, one has to deduce the truth. Therefore, I am giving my recollection of our relationship as the daughter. Anyone who knows me personally knows first-hand about the tumultuous relationship I have with my mother.

There are many facets to the complex person who gave me birth. On one hand, she is highly intelligent, extremely organized, a mean business woman, a trailblazer, an entrepreneur, tough, driven, precise, fashion forward, has an eye for the finer things in life, and personable. On the other, is this antithetical side she has, which baffles the hell out of me.  She will go out of her way to assist her friends, extended family, church members, friends of friends, and treats them like gold. These people love her and have no idea her evil twin exists. Towards me (my brother and sister can blog about their own experiences), I have only experienced the opposite. Getting her to help me with anything or with my children was far and few between. Anything she would do for me came with a conditions which to me felt like selling my soul to the devil. We make oil and water look like peaches and cream. You may be wondering how I could say such vile things about my mother, my retort is count yourself blessed if you have a rock solid relationship with your mom.

The times I needed her most she was not there for me. Yes, I was pregnant and unwed at 19, but I still needed my mother. Truth be told I never wanted to have children because I was fearful of what type of mother I would be. I did not want to be just like her. Even I as a mom, had to learn you must let go of the "I told you so-s" and be there for your child. She was not. My dad came to the hospital when both my sons were born. My dad is my rock. When my youngest was born she did not lay eyes on him until he was 3 months old. The only reason she did so was because my baby sister was crying and begging her to look at her new nephew.  Prior to meeting and marrying my husband, I was engaged. Immediately my mother started planning the wedding. She even placed a deposit down on one of the swanky downtown places in our city for the reception. When all hell broke loose with my then fiance, my world came crashing down. Turns out the addiction he hid from me and his family for years had finally spiraled out of control. All of this was happening during my last semester of nursing school along with shielding my children from the fallout, I had no time for a life implosion. Of course, it was a no-brainer to call off the engagement. My mother's first words to me after she found out about everything was, I owed her the money for the deposit. Really lady?

Years after my children were born, I attempted to patch up our relationship yet again. As I listened to her, everything she said centered around her. She wasn't happy, she wasn't ready to be a grandmother, what her friends thought of MY situation. My only thought was wait what? My response was not kind at all. In a few choice words I pretty much told her to hell with her and her feelings. Did it ever once cross her mind to think about how I felt? How my life changed? How I disappointed myself, my dreams? This is my reality and I could give a rat's behind what your friends think. Albeit it was not one of my finest moments, I was sorry for how I expressed my feelings not for telling my mother how I felt. I had to pray long and hard about how I respond to my mother. Some days were good days and other days I was back on my knees.

We would have a countless number of these knock out drag 'em verbal fights over the course of the next 20 years. A large part of our contention is I do not allow anyone to make do what they want me to do-including my mother. My mother raised me to be a leader, an individual, self-sufficient, and to think for myself-that's part of who I am. My mother also believed she would literally have a hand in how my life would be. Meaning she would tell me what to do and I would follow suit, welp that did not happen. My mother also has the knack for saying the most vicious and vile things that will cut deep into your spirit. She also feels she has the right to tell you how things should be done in your house, with your children, and with your spouse. All of these insertions into my adult life are unsolicited, these are her opinions and not law. My mother does not have the understanding of boundaries when it comes to my life.

I even took a psychological approach to our relationship. I inquired as to how she sucked so bad and my grandmother was a saint (not in those exact words. Really, I did not say it like that.). My mother told me she did everything her mother told her to do;  I said everything? She was appalled by my questioning her response. She described herself as the perfect child and depended on my grandmother to help her make (or to make) major decisions in her life. This revelation shed a light onto some of my mother's antics, however I am not my mother and my mother is not my grandmother.

Growing up she was a tyrant. My mother was a strict disciplinarian which had its pros and cons. Grades had to be on point or you were on lock down. I guess this is why I'm so smart, cause I was on lock down a LOT. It was her way or no way. We saw a family therapist twice during my upbringing.  The first time we went as a family, the therapist requested to see us together. As a teenager I was diagnosed with depression. All I wanted to do was eat and sleep, which is what I did for 2 weeks straight. And this is when we went back to the therapist. On the first visit the therapist ask me why was I depressed, my response was "I don't like her." My mother wasn't shocked, I believe she expected that answer.

The things she has done to destroy my relationship with her, with my children and my spouse are unfathomable, but in her mind she was justified. Again, it is all about how she feels the world should be according to her. The exchanges would be volatile. She has flat out disrespected me in front of my friends, my children and my husband and that's what you're not going to do. My mother has been banned from my house and seeing my children, that's on a good day. Trust me when I say I've gone through all the stages of grief concerning our relationship.

Denial- this could not be how a mother-daughter relationship works. I do not know of any of my friends, cousins, or co-workers who have such a tragic relationship with their mother as I do. It has to get better (at least that's what every kept telling me), doesn't it? Anger- hell yea I was furious at my mother. You had me! I do not recall knocking on her uterus asking for a place to live and grow for 9 months. I stayed angry for years. A mother is supposed to love her children, not antagonize them. Bargaining- I thought if I tried to reconcile the relationship, if I were the bigger person, if, if, if, if. I just wanted a relationship with my mother. Depression- I've been depressed several times since my teens over our relationship. Eventually, I had to realize what ever issues my mother has with me are just that-HERS. Once I had this epiphany, my life became golden. Acceptance- I have finally accepted our relationship for what it is. The final step in me walking into acceptance was my last trip home. I called my mom to let her know we were in town and wanted to stop by. I left her a voicemail stating just that and to call me when she received the message. I did not hear from her. I saw her from afar Sunday after church, but we did not get the opportunity to speak. I saw her again at my niece's birthday party later that same day. I asked if her phone was broke and did she get my message. She said her phone was not broke and she got my message. I replied oh, okay. Sadly, those will probably be the last words I will speak to my mother. I still haven't heard from her.

I'm going to add one more stage to this list and it is Peace. Those maybe the last words I will ever speak to my mother, but I have peace about it. Regardless of our past, she still is my mother. I don't send cards on her birthday or Mother's Day, I call. Mainly because of the cards I have to choose from. It takes me at least 45 minutes to find the softer version of thanks for having me and wish we could be on better terms. This task was dreadful and it stressed me out, so I stopped. I don't receive a card or a phone call on my birthday or Mother's Day from my mother. I have peace in knowing I tried.

I'm no angel and I will be the first to admit that. There were several times my actions were just as out of pocket as my mother's. I come from a family deep rooted in faith, I know the only promise in the bible that comes with the stated benefit. Exodus 20:12 says "Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." The abbreviated version in our home was "Obey your parents so your days will be long on the earth." I am doing so. Colossians 3:20  says "Children obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord". I've disappointed the Lord and my mother countless times on this one, but I thank Him for being patient with me. There is a caveat to Colossians 3:20 and it is the very next verse which states : "Parents do not provoke your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." Parents have the responsibility to love to their children just as children the a responsibility to obey to their parents.

 In several ways I am my mother's daughter,  however she would emphatically deny this statement. I know I would not be as successful as I am today had my mother not taken a hard stance with me. I am driven, intelligent, precise, tough, fashion forward, and I do have an eye for the finer things. I am an astute business woman something I learned by watching my mother. I have a controlling side, a mean streak out of this world, and can say somethings that will cut you to your core. My charge was learning how to cultivate the positive attributes and how to excise the malicious ones. At this point in my life, my positives are winning as they should. I was scared spit-less about the type of mother I was going to become, I believe I turned out to be a pretty good mom. I took the things I liked from my upbringing and incorporated them into my parenting repertoire. I've had to adjust somethings, eliminate some, and some I had to bring back with a new and improved twist. I get there isn't a standard issued parenting manual given to all parents once they take their little bundle of joys home from the hospital, but one thing a child should never have to question is their parents' love. Love is an emotion you display, not a word you just say.

It is my job to love my children. They may not agree with the things I say or the things I do; but if you ask them if their mama loves them, I know they will say yes. In the end, that is all that matters in life is love. By taking my job seriously, working hard at it, knowing at times I will fail (and that's ok), and never give up on my babies my reward will be priceless. What reward is that you ask? The love of my children.