things no one tells you: your mom is only human

in honor of mother’s day, i decided to write about me and my mom. when i turned 35 i thought about my mother. at 35 she had been married twice and had 5 kids, the youngest (me) wasn’t even a year old. our relationship has been marred by anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness. as a child i was mama’s baby and this continued through adolescence. i did all i could to make her happy, as much as a child can. i was a nearly straight a student, a scattered b here and throughout school; never touched drugs, didn’t drink til i was 21, never pregnant, and never snuck any boys into the house. well, there was that one time…

my point is, i felt i was a model daughter. i didn’t cause her or my dad any trouble. sure, i came home after 2am on occasion but i was in college and not wiling out. despite all of this, she and i never saw eye to eye, at least not as i entered high school and this worsened during college. now, in my 40s she and i have gone years without speaking. years. it sounds tragic, sad, unreal, but it’s true. i point all this out to say, when i turned 35 and i thought about my life: single, homeowner, making decent money, living on my own with NO KIDS and i realized, there is no way i could have done what she did. raised three kids on my own, before getting married (again) and then having two more. a span of 13 years from the oldest to the youngest. absolutely not.

i look at her life relative to mine and the tools available to me that weren’t heard of when she was 35: mentors, churches that speak openly about living single and how to live for god, a plethora of self-help books, tv shows, podcasts, and webinars all offering insight into how to get a man, keep a man, have better sex, not get pregnant, earn a degree, get promoted, and learn to salsa.

our mothers are women just like us. they shed wet tears and bleed red blood when cut. they have been betrayed, lied to, cheated on, disappointed, passed over for promotion and discarded by the man they fell in love with. they are daughters, sisters, friends, colleagues, neighbors. i would dare say they have been the sbf on their jobs, the only one at the girl scout troop with their brown child, the only black mother at parent-teacher conferences, the lone sbf in an all white waiting room with her sick child.  i know this to be true because i watched my mom do and be all of those things. that sista is one tough cookie. she can be mean as ten vipers if you cross her, but as soft as a marshmallow when she feels loved. and isn’t that just like me? you? us?

if you have tenuous relationships with your mother, think about the road she trod, the battles she faced, the fears she never showed you because as your mother she had to remain strong. the times when she wanted to break down, throw her hands up to the heavens and cry out to GOD, why me? but she held it together, fixed another dinner, folded more laundry, combed another head.

looking back i can see glimpses of who she was when her mask slipped. sometimes it hit the ground and shattered leaving us both in shock. her references to such incidences are a reminder of her humanness, her womanhood, her fragility. in moments of rare honesty when she allows me to see the real her, my heart is softened and self-righteous anger loses its grip. this doesn’t mean i like where we are today, the time wasted in silence, the hidden victories that aren’t shared, it means i recognize we are both only human.

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