Friday, November 13, 2009

November 13th

Today is my mother's birthday.  Well.  Maybe.  You never know anything for sure with my mom.  I have a very complicated relationship with my mother.  And what better way to celebrate her birthday than by telling the entire internet!

The first thing I have to tell you is that I do love my mother.  And I believe she loves me, in whatever capacity she is capable of.  That being said...

I don't remember feeling loved as a child by my mother.  A burden, an annoyance, a possession, a disappointment, an enemy, sure.  Now, granted, I've spoken here before about my lack of memories from my childhood, so there could very easily be many many good things in my past that I just don't have access to.  I'm not discounting that possibility.  But the memories I do have - being in 4th grade, coming home excited about getting an A on a spelling test, and her telling me to stop fishing for compliments.  Being put in charge of my 3 year old sister when I was 9 for the hours after school until my mother got home from work, including picking her up from daycare, and being yelled at for not getting the house cleaned.  Being called a slut when I was still a virgin.  Repeatedly.  Until I decided I may as well earn the damn title.  Having to skip days of high school to stay home to take care of my youngest 2 sisters, or trying to attend class with an 18 month old and a 4 month old.

Now - to be fair - the childcare duties were mostly so my mother could work to support us.  Four children and very little or no child support makes it very hard.  But I was a kid.  And I was a messed up kid already, thanks to my father.  So it's no wonder I started acting out.

Another thing about my mother - she is a compulsive liar.  About everything.  Little things that don't matter to anyone. Like her birthday.  Growing up, her birthday was June 13th.  According to her driver's license it still is.  But according to my mother, she got some paperwork from her sister a number of years ago claiming it was a mistake of her birth certificate, and her birthday is actually November 13th.  So that's when we celebrate it.  And big things that hurt people very badly.  Like the one my sister and I grew up believing about my sister being a twin.  According to my mother, my sister A was a twin, born early, weighing just over 2lbs.  Our "sister" weighed even less, lived 3 days.  Every year on A's birthday my mother would make a show of being brave, of celebrating while mourning.  Only one small problem.  There was no twin.  A wasn't born early.  I remember seeing her in the hospital nursery, a healthy baby, and we have a picture of me holding her at 2 weeks old, and she is obviously no preemie.  It's taken A most of her adult life to come to grips with the fact that she is not a twin - a fact that she'd always accepted as part of who she was.

And then there's the one where my mother told me I was the cause of her losing custody of my 2 youngest sisters.  When in reality she willingly gave them to their father.  And then couldn't get them back because she chose to stay married to an abusive man.  But to this day, she still claims it was because of me.  The thing about my mothers lies is we've come to the realization that she believes them.  On some level, she's convinced herself of their veracity.

When I was 16 I ended up inpatient at a psychiatric hospital for 3 months.  I made it home for 2, and then went back in for 6.  (Remind me to tell you all those stories sometime if you're interested.)  Within 4 months of getting home - I was kicked out of my mother's house.  I was 17.  I didn't talk to her for a year or so - got back into contact with her, then she moved and I had no idea how to find her.  When I was 23 I tracked down my ex-stepfather, my youngest sister's father, and through them, found her.

In the years since it's been tumultuous at best.  Having my children calmed her.  I have something she wants now.  Kind of.  Grandchildren are sweet, and great in pictures, but noisy and messy and inconvenient if dealt with too often in person. There was a 3 or 4 month period in there where my mother didn't speak to me because she found out I was speaking to my father.  I've learned how I'm expected to act - I'm to be grateful for everything she ever did for me.  At all times.  And I must apologize at least 2 or 3 times a year for all the hell I put her through as a troubled teen.  She still holds that against me.  Even though I was a child.  Two years ago she actually moved here to be closer to me and my children.  She calls me every day.  Every single day.  If I don't answer I had better have an acceptable reason.  Being busy isn't acceptable - then I just have to call her back.  And I have to hear, at least weekly, if not more frequently, my failings as a mother, all the ways in which I'm not strict enough, doing it wrong, and how she did it better.  How much better my kids would act if they were hers.  Then she'll tell me I'm a good mother.  And that she's proud of me.  But I don't believe her.  How can I?

But - for all that.  I love my mother.  I think she has some serious psychiatric issues, yes.  But I do love her, and I do think she loves me, as much as she is capable of.  I just wish her brand of love didn't come with barbs.


Anonymous said...

(((HUGS))) I also have a very rocky relationship with my mother since childhood. We barely speak now, because she denies what happened in the past. I know how difficult dealing with family can be. Let me know if you ever want to talk.

CPTwife said...

Awww, Jennifer, good for you for getting that out! For what it is worth, I would never have known you had a rocky childhood. It has obviously made you a stronger person and probably a better mother to your own children. Hugs to you!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. So, so sorry. I have no words, actually.

won said...


I am searching for words. They are hard to find right now.

I am in awe of the way you have come out of this with your head on straight, and a fearless mother and advocate for your children.

That is something no words or lies can ever tarnish.

Anemone Pie said...

I just don't have words I feel are appropriate for what you've had to live with. I wish I did. There are none, though. :-( I'm glad you decided to share that and I hope you'll share the other stories, too. You're a very strong person, I know that, and a very good one, too.

justjaime31 said...


No words for what you went through. And i am sure what you still go through.

I bet it has made you a stronger person and a better mom because of it.

barefootRhys said...

that sounds very toxic, not just to you but to your children as well.

children pick up on their grandparent's disapproval of a parent. i know i did and it hurt. i sided strongly with my mom against my grandparents


i'd say to keep a healthy distance, but it sounds like you are managing that already

Janice and Jessica said...

Oh Jennifer, I hate that your relationship with your mom is this way, but it is NOT your fault.

Your mom is toxic and I find it admirable that you even have some what of a relationship with her.

Be careful and just keep your distance. She will either take it or leave it and if she leaves it then it is her loss, not yours.

Erin Lutz said...

Jennifer- Big hugs to you. To have had to endure all that you did, and come out strong on the other side is an amazing achievement. You should be proud of yourself.

belladonna1125 said...

I have nothing to add, except I am in awe of you, and proud of you, and hope that you are kind to yourself. You deserve it. :)

Southern Woman said...

Wow, Jennifer. I can't believe you lived through that and came through "okay." I've heard about parents like yours, but it's still hard to wrap my mind around. I sometimes feel sorry for myself because I wasn't hugged much as a kid and have some intimacy issue. But that's pretty much all I have to complain about about my childhood, and in comparison, it's nothing at all.

I think you should be incredibly proud of yourself for healing and not repeating the cycle of abuse. And I'm very impressed that you are still able to love your mother as you do. I hope you admire yourself for your accomplishments in dealing with your past. I do.

The Silva's said...

I am so sorry you went through all of that as a child!! You are a very brave, compassionate person. I am glad I have gotten to "know" you.

Anonymous said...

It's good to get it out there. I also have a difficult relationship with my mom. I wish I could have her in my life, but it is so hard to be around. I hope you will know it's ok to take breaks when you need them. Try not to feel you owe her an explanation. Love her the best you can. You are doing a great job.

Dawn said...

Wow...that is some story. My heart hurt a little for you as a little girl. I have great memories of my mother as a child but now...not so much.

My mother turned "crazy" after the death of my stepfather and she is the perpetual victim. I mourn the loss of the closeness I used to have with my mother.

However, none of that compares to what you had/have to deal with.

Sending you big cyber hugs coz that's all I know to do.


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