For many years I lived a lie, thinking I was the one who fell so desperately short of being a good daughter. For as long as I could remember, I always remember trying so hard to earn my mother’s affections and acceptance. As I got older, I hoped to earn her respect. I was subservient. I did everything I knew to do to be good – to try to be who she wanted me to be, to be who I thought she wanted me to be.
It took many years for me to see that the way she treated me was unhealthy – something just wasn’t right. Then, I thought that maybe I didn’t understand her rejection of me because I just couldn’t see who I really was. I thought that when I had children of my own that I’d have this mind-blowing epiphany and then I would suddenly realize how flawed I really was and what an exemplary mother she was.
I know. Naive, right?
When I became a Christian at the age of 26, her abuse escalated. It actually became worse. Being I was a Christian now, I tried very hard to be extra loving and extra kind – the best I knew how anyway. And even with that, I fear that I failed at that too. There was nothing I could do that was right or good in her eyes. I became increasingly frustrated and hurt which turned then to anger. Her abuse was more than I could bear. She took joy in my pain – be it physical or emotional. She’d humiliate and degrade every chance she got. She’d torture me with the silent treatment which accompanied haughty eyes that felt like stabs of death. Her disdain of me was a soul-shredding experience. I was at the end of my rope. Every visit with her involved me driving home bawling my eyes out – trying to make sense of how it was I was so horrible that she just couldn’t love me. I prayed and prayed asking God to reveal the ‘why.’
I started having children of my own and as I entered into motherhood, I will admit I was not a great mom – after all, I had a real bad example of one. What was passed down to me as a legacy was more like an evil curse. My husband and I took a Christian parenting course which started to unearth the lies I believed. One of the teachings which I have never forgotten was that children always need four things. Time. Attention. Love. Affection. Four things I never authentically got from either parent. It taught me a lot and my mothering started to change. I am so thankful that a friend told us of this course when my first born was still very little. It was a God-send!!
Then second baby comes and as my kids grow and I love them and look after them – I become increasingly troubled as to how my own mother treated me. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Every time I saw my mother – and I mean, every time, she was cruel and every time I left her house it was like having another bite taken out of my heart.
When my oldest was turning four – at his birthday party, my mother insulted and embarrassed me for the last time in my house. I stood up to her – I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so tired of being humiliated by her all the time. I was so hurt. When everyone left, I broke into sobs. My husband was furious over what she’d done. He was going to phone her and rip a strip off of her and I told him, “No need. I’m done. I can’t take this anymore.” Then I asked him a rhetorical question, “What is it about me that she can’t love me?” … and then that is when God spoke clear as day, “There is nothing you could ever do or say that will ever make her love you.” Well. Then I really lost it. I knew it was true – there was nothing that I could ever do or say that could make her love me. I became painfully aware right then that even though I tried so hard to earn her love, it was all in vain. It was all futile.
Making the decision to omit my mother was a very painful process. It meant the death of a hope of ever having a healthy mother-daughter relationship. The Lord had to give me two visions after that to show me that He’d be all the parent I’d ever need. He told me that ‘although my father and mother forsake me, He would not.’ And He never has.
On Mother’s Day is when we are thankful for things our blessed mothers do for us. For me, I can say I am thankful that she bore me. (Even though I think she hoped I’d have died as I was born early.) My mother’s legacy would have been a very toxic one. But even through the crappy, ugly stuff, God can redeem broken things.
Things my mother taught me was not based on love, affection, or kindness. No, my mother’s example was what not to do!
Don’t tear down your kids. Don’t expect your kids to be who you want them to be. Don’t humiliate or degrade your children. Don’t take away their voice. Don’t restrict them from being who God intended them to be. Never use the silent treatment. Never use disdain.
Because she showed me what not do to, I love my kids with kindness and affection. And I know I am not perfect at it – but, man, I sure try with all my might. I allow my kids to have a voice – to be able to express opinions respectfully. I extend to them age-appropriate respect and privacy (something else I never had growing up.) I don’t tear down my kids, but build them up. I tell them I love them almost every single day. I don’t make slaves out of my children. I let them be who God made them to be and I sit back in wonder and delight that God has entrusted them to me. What an honour!!!
Some mother’s are not worthy of honour or recognition … but through her toxicity and abuse, I was shown what not to do, I was shown how damaging her behaviour was. I have strived to do everything right that she got wrong.
Mother’s Day for me is not about the getting, its about the giving. It’s about me passing on a healthy and godly legacy to my kids and celebrating that! Knowing I am passing on pearls to my kids is the greatest and most beautiful gift I treasure on Mother’s Day. I get to celebrate the honour of being my kids’ mom!
Instead of seeing kids as curses like mine did, they are the blessings and delights of my very soul. My love for them, while deep and never-ending, will never surpass God’s love for them.
If they grow up knowing their value, knowing they are loved and accepted just as they are – flaws and all; that they are amazing humans that God has given me for a time, to one day glorify Him in their lives – this will be enough for me for the rest of my life.
So Mother’s Day for me … it’s not about them having a great mom … its about me giving my children what I never got.
I am insanely blessed. ‘Thank you, Lord, for all You have done – I could not have done it without You!’
~ Saoirse Quill