After putting off seeing Mum and being two weeks late for Mother’s Day, I finally went round there today. I thought she would be sulky and moody and questioning why I hadn’t been over but she was none of those things. All she was, was pleased to see us. We stayed a couple of hours and it was quite nice. I realised when I left that I don’t really see Mum as the woman she was when I was a child because she has changed just enough. She’s not my idea of the mum I want but maybe she’s enough.
I thought back on something I heard recently which made me think at the time that every single one of us in the world is affected in some challenging way by our childhood and that maybe our challenge as adults is simply to make peace with that. I wasn’t sexually abused or beaten, I wasn’t abandoned or starved. I was loved to the extent that my parents could manage. I realised too that Mum and Dad were both still stuck in their own childhood traumas. While I made the conscious decision to do things completely differently for my children, they didn’t have that ‘wisdom’ to do the same when they became parents.
I think back to my parents’ childhoods and what I know of them and I know that my Dad’s perception of his childhood was one of not being loved. He grew up with a Mum that was addicted to prescription drugs. A mum that often treated his Dad cruelly, hitting him, tripping him up when he was an old man and treating him with no love at all. His Mum also beat him regularly. He had a Dad that showed no interest in him unless it was for money. Dad was neglected and unloved and I wonder too if his control and emotional abuse of women (that he still does now) was a misguided attempt in ensuring that no woman got the better of him again as his Mum did with him and his Dad. His self-preservation was to become a strong man, strong enough that no-one could hurt him. It’s worked.
Mum’s childhood was, upon reflective, probably quite similar to mine, in so far as the feeling of being different. The 2nd born, from an early age she was made to care for her sister who had special needs or she had to work in the family’s shop. Her brother and sister were treated with love and kindness, Mum often felt as though she were treated differently. She said she often took the blame for things the other two did because her parents couldn’t tell off the child with Downs Syndrome or the only boy they had. Mum was a scapegoat and was seen as the strong, independent child capable of doing an adult job even at 6 years old and for that reason, she was treated very differently to the other two who were allowed to have more normal childhoods. Mum has told me of times she was hit for something one of her siblings did and that no-one listened to her. Mum hasn’t really ever spoken of happy times as a child. I remember Mum’s tales of when Millie was born and how all she ever did was cry constantly and the only thing that ever stopped the crying was if Mum took her for a long walk in the pram. Mum retells stories of how she’d walk for miles just to quiet her down. As a mum myself, I can imagine how hard it must have been for Mum at just 21 years old having a child that always cried, having very little support from Dad, not really being able to turn to her parents because they were still so wrapped up in caring for their other daughter’s increasing needs and she probably felt really alone and depressed.
Dad’s version of the same story was that he’d come in from work every night, take Millie off Mum and the crying would stop straight away. I doubt very very much that happened as he was never particularly a hands-on Dad and I’ve no doubt his story is embellished to make him look good and to make Mum look bad, something he always did when we were growing up. I imagine Mum must have felt very powerless as a wife and a mother.
I wonder if when I was born, looking more like Mum than Millie did, if she looked at me and subconsciously decided to re-enact her own childhood with me and make me the unloved child. I think probably at the point I was born, she’d have been mentally, physically and emotionally drained from Millie and Dad especially as he was accusing her of sleeping with other men at this point, he even accused Mum of someone else fathering me. His own brother was one of the people that mum says he accused her of sleeping with. Maybe that is where my belief came from that I didn’t belong or that I was adopted. Could it be possible that Mum couldn’t form a loving relationship with Millie because Dad had already started at that point to make Millie his golden child, therefore pushing Mum out (pretty much as Tom did with Annie and I) and she couldn’t form a loving relationship with me out of fear that if she showed more love to me than to Millie it would prove to Dad that there was a chance I wasn’t his?
I think by the time she had Izzy, and definitely by the time she had Sasha, she was older, wiser and braver and she’d started to stand up to him and so she didn’t hold back with her love for Izzy and Sasha regardless of anything Dad might say.
For all the things Mum did or didn’t do to and for me as a child, Dad was just as bad but they don’t seem to have consciously impacted me as harshly as Mum’s actions, possibly because it was Mum’s love that I craved not Dad’s because if I’m being fair, Dad never showed me any love either. I’ve never chosen to look at all the positives that Mum no doubt did too. I have focused for so long on the negatives around Mum and yet one of my strongest beliefs in life is that everything is balanced. For every positive, there is a negative and vice versa. If I can sit for almost 5 hours and come up with a list a mile long of all the negatives around Mum then surely, with an open and willing heart, I would be able to come up with the same in positives too.
I left Mum’s today with a greater willingness than ever before to really understand her because really, all any of us are doing, is living out our own previous undealt with pain in our current relationships. I’ve been very lucky that I was born with a thirst for a deeper understanding of the self and with an inner wisdom not everyone possesses, maybe Mum wasn’t blessed with those things and so maybe it wasn’t even possible for her to do the work on herself and her pain that I have been able to do on myself and that alone is reason to understand, because maybe all along, then and now, she was and is just doing the best she can do. That is all any of us can do.