When I stop and think about it, being somebody’s daughter is this sort of weird, alien experience. Where being somebody’s big sister felt as natural as breathing, I never felt comfortable in playing the role of my Mom’s kid.
There’s so much more to it than just existing. There’s the whole expectation that I would do what I was told, behave and make decisions based on the values my parents instilled in me– to make them proud. (Bear with me. This isn’t a post about angst, or post angst, it’s about enlightenment—just let me get there.)
My introductory statements don’t sound positive, but I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. My parents are not bad people. They’re actually exemplary, stand-up parents—on paper, they’re the kind of folks that kids waiting around in adoption agencies (assuming that’s what orphans do—stand around and wait for “new” parents to come along?) probably dream about.
They provided me the foundation I needed and now, in my mid-20s, I can cross my heart and throw up a scout’s honor that I am, in fact, a happy, well adjusted, employed and an overall good person. (Thanks parents!) Mom and dad provided me with a safe home, sent me to good schools and provided me with all of the tools I needed so that I was prepared to succeed both academically and professionally. I was always well fed, well clothed, involved in various activities, clean—etc, etc, you get the idea. Some may even go so far as to call me spoiled. Growing up I felt and still feel very loved.
My parents, the stereotypical Midwesterners that they are, are not very emotional people. We didn’t spend any time talking about how we “felt” as kids and Mom specially, believed in tough love, commanding us to suck up the tears after a skinned knee or a bad day. I got a hit by my mom quite a bit, she’d spank us with belts or wooden spoons, slap us across the face with her heavy gold ring and Tennis Bracelet covered hands. But it was the build up to the corporal punishment that was the worst. I would be yelled at (or called names when I really screwed up) to a degree that I remember wishing that I had never been born or that I could disappear into thin air.
What always killed me was that often, when I was being reprimanded at my mother’s hands, I knew that what I had done was wrong and I was usually very sorry. My crime in question was often a silly mistake or one made without malice. I was convinced by the age of six that my mother would strike me only to calm her own frustrations.
I remember being in the first grade and my mother was helping me to study for a spelling test. At that time I didn’t fully understand how “gh” sounds in the English language worked and I couldn’t seem to accurately spell the word “eight” no matter how many times my mother sounded it and spelled it out for me. Each time I spelled the word wrong, she would yell a thundering “NO” and smack me across the face. I vividly remember by throat aching from crying and screaming, my cheeks burning from my constant streams of hot tears.
As an adult, I have been faced with the choice to confront my mother about the things that were said or occurrences that happened when I was young—instances that either didn’t make sense or that hurt me. Because I wasn’t brought up in a home where my sister and I didn’t fully express ourselves in this way, it was difficult to process whether or not bringing up these memories would even be worth it.
When I recently, finally built up the vocabulary and the courage to articulate why these things were damaging to me—and demanded to know why they happened—it was as if it was too late. My mother is a completely different person now, a much sweeter, and more loving, older and wiser person. She has two college graduates instead of two little kids, and I don’t think she’s yelled at anyone, not even my dad, in a few years.
I only feel compelled to write this fact down because the last two decades of my life have been painful and have put a strain on the relationship I choose to have with my mother. When I finally reach out for answers, for closure, to close this rift in our relationship, I find that the younger version of her self, the one I’m angry with, isn’t there. It seems that I just can’t have closure—and I find that fact to be very frustrating.
I didn’t intend to create a deeply personal post when I started writing today, but then, maybe this is just the kind of release that I needed.
This blog is, after all, for this purpose, right? It’s a home for all of the random little broadcasts based on the insanities and vulgarities that live in my skull.
Happy adulthood and happy Monday, all.