Mother's Day: A Lament

If you've read some of my past posts, you might know that my parents were a mixed bag.

My dad...yeah. he's got something wrong, and it's hard to specify exactly what. Perhaps he's a borderline? Certainly a narcissist. And definitely controlling. Names aside, he certainly is a troubled soul, and my soul is troubled over the mental health of my siblings. That can be a father's day post.

But my mom...well. It's a mixed bag.

I spoke in my last post of how she fought with the insurance, spending a long time on the phone just to try to get me my cochlear implant. She stayed in the hospital overnight with me after my surgery, and even stayed up to watch Sister Act with me, because I thought it was afternoon when it was really evening. (Thank you, anesthesia.) She tied my hair back when I puked due to the extreme vertigo after the surgery.

She was the one who most taught me to listen and speak when I was diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of 2. I had gotten a 6-month grant with some speech and listening center, and my mom had them teach her how to teach me, so that when the grant ran out, I could continue on with catching up with language.

She home-schooled all 6 of us kids. My dad wanted to try homeschooling, and put together the lesson plans for my mom to teach. My mom was very hesitant, but did it anyway. It was just my brother and me at the time--and then some years later, the four little ones came along, and she homeschooled them too. I think she's grown to appreciate homeschooling in some ways. (In other ways, homeschooling was the last thing we kids needed with a controlling father. But that's another post.)

She used to fight, a little bit, for us. She used to be a bit more independent, before she finally decided to give up and drink even more of the proverbial koolaid. When us kids were afraid to ask dad something, we would try to get mom to talk with him for us. And she sometimes did. At least, before she said that it was not good for her to be in the middle. She was the buffer between dad and us.

dad used to work at an office, M-F. When he was gone, we were a happy family. If someone got hurt, mom would help that sibling. If we were frustrated with school, mom would help us. The little ones could make a mess with the toys, as long as we cleaned it up by 4pm. We could go places, like Walmart (until dad forbade us to go there anymore because it was too dangerous). Sometimes we walked or drived to our local grocery store that was a few blocks away, until dad thought it was too dangerous, then we had to go to a grocery store several miles away. Then at 4pm, we'd better be home, dinner better be cooking, and the house better be cleaned up. Toys left out were at risk of being thrown away. When the garage door opened, all of our hearts quickened in fear. The little ones would yell, "Daddy! Dad!" while mom and I and my oldest little brother tried our best to carefully corral them so they don't accidentally trip on an eggshell and set dad off.

We could play outside in the common area or in our backyard when he was gone. Sometimes we even snuck off to the playground. We used to be able to go all the time, but then one of the little siblings scraped her knee, and then dad forbade the playground because it was too dangerous. Finally, after a couple months of no playground, mom took us all there, and we were very careful not to scrape our knees.

We would support each other, us three, during dad's rages. My mom, Cameron, and me. After he raged and then proclaimed that we were no longer allowed to do this or that we had to do that a very particular way, we would mouth to each other validating words. Like, "insane" or "crazy" or things like that. If we could, we would vent to each other out of earshot of dad. We'd also give each other a heads up, especially once dad began working from home. When I drove home, mom would make a pretense of doing laundry and meet me at the garage door and mouth to me that dad was in a bad mood. That way I knew to steer clear of him. That way I could steel myself for his rages.

But she never stopped him from raging at us. She never said, "Wait, you're being insane. That was not the case at all, and you're making things up." She never said, "GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF MY CHILD." when dad angrily spanked my siblings, or grabbed them forcibly by the arms to release his anger. She never said, "Stop," when he yelled at me for being a selfish brat when I told him I thought I had depression (In retrospect, I was extremely depressed). She enabled his behavior.

Then one day dad happened to overhear mom vent to me, and he yelled at her for a long time behind their bedroom door. She couldn't even get away to go attend to dinner that was cooking on the stove, so I had to take care of the little ones and make sure dinner didn't burn. After that, and after she had gotten that one damn brainwashing book that upheld wifely obedience even in the face of near-fatal physical attacks on part of the husbands, she "gave up."

That's the best I can describe it. She gave up. I knew I'd lost her. Ally, friend...she was gone.

Those two events, coupled with dad working from home all the time...it makes sense why she would choose to concede all things to dad. It was easier to allow him to control the family, because giving in would lead to less conflict, which would lead to fewer fights (which dad always won), and pretending to be a happy family is good for kids, right? Put on a happy face for the public. (Besides, if we didn't put on a happy face in public, we were punished when we got home.)

I think that's why my mom tried to convince me to apologize to dad, after he disowned me (back in 2009). Apologize for what? I'm still not certain what I needed to apologize for. I was done apologizing for things I didn't do, and I told my mom as much. I told her it was crazy that he would disown me before talking about his problems with me. She said, "that's just the way he is" and I had to honor him by doing what he wants me to do. No. I refused to play along with a crazy person any longer.

My mom, I think, recognized that my dad was being crazy when he disowned me. But she chose to "side" with him. She wanted me to join back in the game of tip-toe. Whatever the cost, to "keep the peace" in the family. When I sent my siblings Christmas gifts that year, she co-signed an email that my dad wrote, telling me to not send gifts to them anymore.

Shortly before my wedding, she co-signed a letter my dad wrote, and sent it to all my relatives and family friends. The letter told everyone that they shouldn't attend my wedding. One relative told me this later...but she had asked my mom, "Why?" My mom replied, "Because we want people on our side."

(By the way, nearly every single relative I invited showed up. Those who didn't, simply couldn't make it work. Life happens. But these relatives deliberately showed up despite my dad's orders not to.)

This is why I have mixed feelings about about my mom for Mother's Day. My mom was a good mom in many ways. But she also failed to protect us kids from dad's rages. I'm not sure what to feel about that. Angry? Forgiving, because she had a rough childhood herself? Hurt? Pity? Perhaps all of the above.

Still, I love her. That's what family is...or ought to be. Unconditional love. That, however, doesn't mean that I will subject myself to further hurts. I know it is a difficult concept for some people to understand, loving someone and yet refusing to let them hurt you, but it's where I am right now. I love her, but I am glad that I don't have my dad's toxic nature influencing my life through her right now.

Filed under: Abuse, misc.

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