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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dear Mom,

For a long time I have hated Mother's Day. It's unfair of me to hate it. It's a good tradition. Mothers are sort of essential in the human race perpetuation and some women are incredibly good mothers. You were not.

For a long time I have blamed you for many problems in my life. Some of those problems were perpetuated by you. Some of the issues I deal with daily are the result of the way you interacted with me when I lived in your home.

For a long time I have been sad because I know who I was, but you did not. You rarely saw the little girl who was bright and loving and beautiful and funny and precocious in many ways. I wish you had known her.

For a long time I have been angry because I did not deserve the treatment I received from you much of the time. I deserved to be hugged and kissed and cuddled frequently. I deserved to be respected and disciplined--not demeaned and beaten up. I deserved to be recognized as a child and treated in age appropriate ways. I deserved to be loved.

You've told me of ways I made you uncomfortable from the day I was born. As an infant I did not sleep like other babies. You would feed me, expecting that I would return to sleep--instead I lay in your arms, three days old, watching you with eyes so dark you could not discern the pupils. It made you uncomfortable. I didn't look like your child. I didn't act like a normal infant. I think, maybe, you were afraid of me.

I gave you no rest as a toddler. At three years old, I learned to read before my older sister and I wanted to learn constantly. You bought me activity books with dot-to-dots and mazes. They lasted one day and I wanted more. You took me to the library and filled my life with books. You tried to give me things to fill my mind and stop my wheedling, but you had a new baby and another child--and you were very, very sad.

I was always busy, moving, twirling in circles, climbing trees (or anything else in sight), running. I brought rocks, and bugs, and dandelions into the house. I was not always respectful, or obedient, or truthful. I didn't like the cat--it scratched me--I put it down the laundry chute. I was not an easy child to raise.

Today I am no longer angry. When I grew up, I decided to learn all I could about you, to try to understand why you acted as you did toward me. The first thing I learned was that you suffered from terrible, untreated chronic depression throughout your entire life. I think that would be devastating. I learned you were abused by your own father but that experience is such that you cannot address or even acknowledge it. I wish it could have been different. You did not deserve that.

I see in you still, the little girl who wished to dance and play music and write poetry and giggle and play with friends--but who stilled those delightful desires to please a parent who could not be pleased. Sometimes, you and I laugh together. Sometimes we talk and you share with me the things you have written. Sometimes you sing with me. I am no longer angry.

I am sometimes still sad, because I wish that you had received treatment for your depression so that you and I could have had a better relationship when I was a child. I wish that you had not felt detached and overwhelmed and angry all the time. You have expressed horror at some of the things you did during those times and begged my forgiveness. You have it. You're my mom. Life is not perfect. We're working to heal together. But sometimes I'm still a little sad.

I'm learning to place blame where it belongs. You are responsible for much of what I deal with today--but not all. And responsibility is simply a place to understand why--not a place to punish or retaliate. I did not deserve the mistreatment I received, but responding to that with vengeance simply perpetuates the mistreatment. Responding with love, with information, with kindness, stops the incorrect actions and allows us both to make the most of the time we now share. And I become more than I would otherwise be--and so do you. 

Today I honor you on Mother's Day. You have given me many unspeakable gifts. You fostered my love of reading and encouraged me always to write. You recognized my talents and made certain, in spite of the fact that we rarely had enough money, that I had the best music teachers you could find. You noticed my love of beauty and helped me recreate it in many ways. You gave me opportunities to speak and perform and teach. You made certain I had all I needed to excel intellectually. You told me I would attend and graduate from a university--it was an expectation, not a choice. You provided me with spiritual guidance, moral guidelines, and ideals which could shape me into a person of integrity and beauty. And even though you didn't say it, and I never felt it, I believe you cared for me deeply. I know you do now. 

Through you I have learned that people make mistakes--some of those mistakes are devastating to innocent people. I have learned that forgiveness can be given, changes made, and future relationships salvaged. I have learned that it's okay for me to feel angry and sad and frustrated, but still understand how very much I love you and how important you are in my life. I have learned to accept your boundaries even when I wished for more, because I respect your right to choose what is best for you. I have learned to see you as a whole person with flaws and abilities and beauty. 

I cannot have what I would have chosen in my childhood, but I will accept what you and I have built together now. 

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother's Day.



  1. This must have been a difficult letter to write.

    The one line that stood out to me most is: I have learned to accept your boundaries even when I wished for more, because I respect your right to choose what is best for you.

    That is powerful to me. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful and thoughtful post. Sometimes it's hard to remember that our moms did the best they could with what they had, with what they knew. Forgiveness is so much better than anger and resentment which only tend to hold us back from becoming....who we are meant to be. I needed this today. Thank you.