Thursday, October 6, 2011

"She was my mother once..."

My earliest memories are of trying to placate my mother. By the time I
was four, I was able to predict her mood swings with great accuracy,
and to this day if I can't predict someone's actions within minutes of
meeting them I am deeply afraid of them. My parents divorced when I
was five. My mother almost didn't fight for custody, but her family
told her to, so for years she lied to and manipulated everyone she
could. She would make up very convincing stories and truly believe
they had happened. She even convinced the guardian ad litem that she
was the best parent. Finally my dad won custody when it turned out
she'd been lying to her lawyer about a lot of things. I am grateful
for that every day. It was still very, very unusual for the father to
get custody - it still is, which is shameful. If I'd been given to her
I doubt I would be alive now.

During the divorce she tried to convince me and my brother that our
dad was evil. She would tell us that there was a black hole in his
living room that would eat us up, or that monsters lived under the
beds in his apartment. I just wanted to make everyone happy so that no
one would be angry at me. I tried to hate my dad for her, but when I
couldn't, I finally went to her and apologized for still loving him. I
only realized how horrible that is very recently. It just seemed like
a normal and natural thing to do at the time. Her words worked on my
brother, and he learned to hate Dad.

She moved out of state after the divorce, and we would visit her every
summer. She would dress me up and use me to impress her friends with
how cute and polite I was. I was the golden child who could do no
wrong. When I was 11 she moved back and wanted to see us more. I was
miserable. She hadn't changed at all, she just wanted to use me for
social status and labor. I decided to stop visiting her when I was 12.
She never asked for me when she kept picking up my brother for his

I went to court when I was 16 to remove her parental rights. She
didn't fight it, but she did send me a bunch of baby pictures. She had
taken all of them in the divorce. I was grateful - she was trying to
manipulate me, but those pictures were a precious gift. The court
removed her parental rights when I was 17. I was terrified in that
court room, making my case to the judge alongside my dad and attorney.
I was terrified that I'd see her, that she'd show up and charm and lie
her way out of it. I could barely walk out I was shaking so hard.

This year, I'm 25. My mother just died of cancer. I've had to comfort
my brother as best I can. I still don't know how I feel about it - her
boyfriend kept sending messages urging me to reconcile with her, but I
think that I have. I don't hate her anymore. I'm not angry with her
for all the damage she did to me. I'm not glad she's dead. It's just a
thing that is true: she was my mother once, and she was a terrible
person, and now she's dead.


  1. Wow, reading this brought up tears. I have often wondered how I would feel if my father died. I'm not angry with him anymore, but I have no interest in having any sort of relationship with him. I have often felt like he was my father once, and now he is just a stranger. Will I feel sad when he dies? I can't be sure until it happens, but a big part of me thinks I won't be, and then I feel sort of heartless for thinking that. So reading what you said here makes me feel like I'm not alone in this, thanks.

  2. I totally agree with you too Annie. This posting has brought such comfort to me. I think we tell ourselves that everything has to be happy, forgiven, in a pretty little package, to cover up the sadness, to pretend everything is okay. Thank you for sharing this story. For reaffirming that it is perfectly acceptable to just be. I don't hate my dad. I don't love him either. It's a challenge for so many people to understand it. Thank you for giving a great voice to that perspective, that reality, that truth.
    Thank you.

  3. thank you for sharing this. it is incredible and you are amazing. people always try to guilt me into going back to the abuse i endured for 25 years. what will you feel when she is gone...and sadly she has been gone for years. not a word in many years. so for me that day has come, not officially but still. i am sad for all of us that had to endure this growing up but hopefully this will show a few people that you can be better without a parent like that. my mother is a role model of what not to be to my kids. and not a moment goes by when i dont remind myself that. that mother voice in my head constantly criticizing and putting me down is a wisper now but i dont and wont let my guard down. i wont let my kids down.

  4. I agree, thank you for sharing. I'd like to thank everyone who has. Most of all the creator of this blog, for the inspiring thing that you're doing, helping us be the kind and gentle parents we want to be, and to break the cycle which some of our parents couldn't. The link between you're two blogs is so important, i hope that more people come across it. Sadly, i'm afraid that the really 'bad' parents out there are not the ones that are reading this to try and better themselves. But we can all improve, and should never stop trying! For Michelle, don't let you're guard down, or your kids down, but remember too that you are human, it's ok to not be perfect. I hope for you in the future that many moments DO in fact go by when you no longer remind yourself of what not to be, and you just BE, the wonderful person, and parent that you obviously are. Thank you.

  5. This is succinct and beautiful: "she was my mother once, and she was a terrible
    person, and now she's dead." Our mothers dying one day is the biggest weapon used by those trying to shame us into reconciling. I love how you put it.