The Mother Load

The Mother Load

Full (moon) disclosure: There’s a good chance I may go all over the place with my thoughts in this post (more so than usual).

Last night, I went outside to gaze at the supermoon, came in and watched “Avengers: Endgame” for the umpteenth time, and realized I hadn’t done a post to mark the occasion of starting this quiet little blog a whole decade ago!

Spoiler alert: I’m still not (technically) gonna do one.

However long you’ve been rockin’ with this sporadic, occasionally depressing, hopefully insightful and always a tad batshit crazy home of my musings — please know that I am truly grateful to you for generously indulging me. It is my hope that you’ve left this page at times feeling enlightened, optimistic, more vulnerable and/or mildly amused. It is also my hope that you’ve spread the word so others might feel the same.

Maybe you’ve gained perspective in areas you never considered. Maybe some of my stories resonated and made you feel seen or heard. Maybe you, too, have embraced therapy. Or meditation. Or skydiving. Or tragicomical sexcapades with lanky/sketchy Cuban poets or semi-famous narcissistic actors. Or obsessively playing the “Hamilton” soundtrack ad nauseam. Or indulgent self-care rituals. (I’d like to delude myself in thinking there’s something here for everyone.)

When I began this blog, I was reeling from a season of change I wasn’t mentally prepared for and desperately needed an outlet to escape. I was struggling to find full-time work after being laid off from a lucrative job a year earlier, was fresh out of a nearly six-yearlong relationship that had grown abusive (subsequently becoming homeless as a result), and my father had been diagnosed with dementia and early-onset alzheimer’s — setting off a domino effect of health, legal, financial and family drama aplenty for years to come. To say that writing about things as innocuous as baseball game proposals and bridge comparisons provided an unlikely balm at the time was an understatement.

Ten years later, this little blog is where the façade gets stripped. And I love it.

Which brings me to a subject I haven’t really been keen to delve into because up until now I didn’t realize it was such a pain point but whew lawd is it ever!

As April comes to a close, it brings with it more than a slew of Taurus folks reminding me that I need to get my life in order and that my birthstone is trash. It also brings the ominous (for me, at least) reckoning that is Mother’s Day; the one day out of the year where I pretend to be engaged by doling out airy tributes to the moms in my life, acutely aware of my personal views on motherhood, and having come to grips with the fact that my relationship with my own biological mother is nonexistent at my behest.

For years, I’ve grappled with a host of feelings when it came to my biological mother: The classic default of hurt/angry with her for behavior that could clinically be construed as negligent/abandonment. Guilty for the last words I ever said to her nearly five years ago at my father’s funeral, after she repeatedly hit me with a program bearing my father’s face for “not getting her joke.” Sad for her because her inability to see beyond her own experiences and narrative has impaired and/or destroyed any real chance of healing or connection with me and anyone else that just got tired of trying and repeatedly failing to be heard.

And yes, I’m cognizant of the disconnect that comes with using the term “biological,” although it’s not as loaded as it’s just simply my truth. Another woman raised me. To me, she’s my mother. Simple math.

But even armed with those basic facts, I never dug into the emotional ramifications of that equation. Never paid attention to how I internalized that anger. Never noticed how during the rare visits in my youth, she’d find opportunities to insult my father, who never spoke ill of her, made countless efforts to ensure she and her family were kept abreast of my whereabouts and supported various members when they were in need decades after they had divorced. (Admittedly a bad husband, but an undeniably good — albeit flawed — man.) Also never picked up on her habit of assuming the victim role and shirking accountability when she made terrible — and often detrimental — life choices.

If I had…I would have noticed sooner that I’d become the very person I’d vowed to never become…at one point basing my decision to not have children on the fear that I’d one day replicate her actions.

Strangely, realizing I was an asshole was quite a refreshing revelation.

After unpacking how my approach to life and relationships was shaped (distorted?) by the fears, resentments, traumas and biases of both my biological and adopted mothers, I began looking at my past romantic relationships and realized there was a common thread: All of my long-term relationships had been with men who held deep resentments toward their mothers as well. One was angry that his mother brought him to America, forcing him to leave his life and friends across the pond behind…glossing over the fact that she was fleeing an a violent marriage. One was none-too-pleased that his younger, fairer-skinned brother got more attention than he did growing up. One literally blacked out talking about how his mother would take his deceased father’s social security money and give it to his younger brother for clothes and sneaker shopping, while he was supporting himself through college (even though they did not share the same father). All of them at one point had assumed the role of “man of the house” and financially supported them in their adult life to the point of straining themselves fiscally to maintain the appearance of being the “good son” and keep the desired approval/love of their mothers.

Unsurprisingly, all of them thought money, status and material belongings were the remedy for the huge emotional voids they couldn’t fill. And all had massive control issues.

And as simultaneously heartbreaking and terrifying as that revelation is, it’s not an anomaly. There are SO MANY mothers who are unwittingly hobbling their child’s ability to have healthy relationships and even function as emotionally stable adults. Hell, without even realizing it, I had preternaturally doomed my children to the point where I didn’t even bother having any, so I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like being a woman who puts the weight of her world onto the shoulders of her child because her heart is broken to the point where she makes her happiness and dream fulfillment the priority and responsibility of that child.

Actually, I can and just did. It’s shitty.

I think about that when I hear stories of single mothers pushing their sons to be pro athletes in dangerous but lucrative sports without encouraging them to also have an education and a post-retirement business plan. I think of that when I see stage moms who aggressively force their children into entertainment without their consent. I think of that when I hear stories of women who knew their partners were abusing their kids but didn’t want to lose whatever stability that partner provided, and instead took their frustrations out on the child and abused them more.

I think of women who resent when the child gets more attention than them and ignore or put down their dreams and achievements. I think of women who can’t recover when the child is a physical reminder of the man who brought them pain and, by default, punishes them for it. I think of women who mistakenly believe that withholding words of encouragement and praise will make their kids “stronger.” I think of women who use threats and violence to intimidate their child into meeting their expectations instead of talking to them. I think of women who don’t communicate their needs, fears and desires, who risk sending their kids a message that their needs, fears and desires aren’t valid or worthy of attention, fulfillment and care. I think of all these very-real scenarios…and of the future adults walking around feeling unworthy, unloved, unable to express or process emotions and conflict…afraid to communicate what they require and be vulnerable, authentic, joyful and free as a result.

And it’s soul crushing…in addition to generating way too many red flags to keep track of before swearing off dating/mating for life.

I’d be remiss if I left out the women who inadvertently raise dangerously entitled humans because they fear being labeled a bad mother. They may not be scarring the kids for life, but they sure as hell are making them difficult to deal with in society, which may scar the rest of us.

That said, I know some amazing women who have raised some incredible human beings. I understand it’s no small feat, and it often takes a village. And without the support of a partner and/or friends and family who are equally invested in making sure everyone is functioning on their highest level, things absolutely, inevitably, fall through the cracks.

To them, I say with all sincerity: You deserve your flowers. And the spa days. And the occasional vice-infused getaway. You deserve all the things.

I’ll just close this epic tome by saying that in the thirteen hours since writing the bulk of these words (I was too sleepy to edit and post earlier), I’ve since discovered that Oprah released a new book today pretty much touching on this fun subject, so I’m just gonna take that as a sign I’m on the right path and learned something good over this past decade, and perhaps this is where my generational curse ends.

Also, I’m literally on the same page as Oprah, and I haven’t decided yet if that’s a flex or if I’m about to get cussed out again by the people who keep telling me to write a book already.

Motherfucker.

Parental Guidance Suggested

Some people have all the luck, in which they never experience or understand a desire to have what constitutes in society as a “normal” life.

They grow up in loving homes — not necessarily nuclear ones — with families that support them and teach them valuable life lessons to prepare them to be thriving and successful adults in society. They live life fearlessly and ready to take on the world because they were told throughout their lives that they could do and be anything they wanted to be. Their complaints vary from having the option of two family homes and not getting what they wanted for Christmas. Or something of that nature.

But then, there are the other people… the ones whose innocence and youth were lost very early in life through various methods ranging emotional, physical and sexual abuse, abandonment and just overall circumstances. They grew up afraid to speak their minds and hearts, mistrusting of adults — especially whichever gender caused the most trauma — and resentful or very angry with anyone they felt had a better deal. They have difficulties in relationships friendly and romantic, and often hurt people both intentionally in retaliation or unintentionally through subconsciousness.

Unfortunately, if the media reports and case studies are correct, there are a lot of the latter in the world. As scary as the reality of abuse cases are, scarier still are the ones that never see the light of day. These days the commonality of people (many high-profile) revealing their ordeals have sparked more discussions and openness about the subject, which allows the possibility of healing and coming from a place of despair, to one of hope. But the truth is these people function in our society and in one form or another, their demons affect how they do so. Our understanding, or lack thereof, can sometimes put us in uncomfortable and presumably unfair life or death situations.

Why am I going down this slippery and awkward slope… again?

Yesterday, I read a story about a father in Texas who discovered someone sexually assaulting his four year-old daughter and punched him continuously in the head until he died. As tragic as the death of someone by the hands of another may be, shamefully in retrospect, the emotion that came over me was anything but grief.

My first thought was that the father should not be charged with a crime. My second thought was about what that little girl is going to have to endure emotionally. Surprisingly, my third thought was that I envied her future.

For the rest of her life, that little girl will always know that her dad literally killed someone to protect her. He will most likely never let her out of his sight for the rest of his life. She will never have to live with a soul-crushing secret, or believe that somehow she was responsible for what happened to her, because her family will give her all the support she needs to be a strong, confident woman.

When people become parents, they sometimes forget there’s more to having a child than feeding, changing and clothing them. They’re not accessories to be paraded like the latest “It” bag, and you can’t give them away if you grow tired or bored with maintaining them. Some people have children for many reasons that don’t include the most important reason: having a legacy.

Adults forget that children are the ones who build on the foundations we create. When we break everything in their paths, they go through life thinking everything should be broken. When we neglect them, they neglect others — and worse — seek the acceptance of those who don’t have their best interests at heart. When we create entertainment such as music, movies, books and video games that glorify sex and violence, they embrace them in place of love and compassion. When we speak and act disrespectfully to and around them, they replicate the same behavior. Everything we do impacts their futures… and ours.

But I’m no expert.

My own story is not a new one, so I don’t need to elaborate. But when one has spent the last six-plus years in long-term relationships with men so similar to her absentee father that she could only tell them apart physically… you can gauge someone dropped the ball during my formative years. With that, I’m taking a much-needed break from it all for a while to re-draft that blueprint.

You don’t need to be a parent to determine the future of a child, but it helps to be a parent to your child for the sake of their future. This especially rings true now that we can no longer rely on teachers, nor the church — or even our communities — to protect them.

Perhaps the moral of the story is if you choose to bring a child into this world, be prepared to have a watchful eye, impeccable time management skills, the willingness to sacrifice some of your life’s comforts for them… and potentially take a life for them.

Only the last one I don’t advocate, but if the “stand your ground” law can enable psychotic provocateurs to murder innocent people, one would think exceptions can be made for the most innocent of all.